b'Pandemic FalloutThe COVID-19 pandemic has affected almost all areas of the Canadian potato industry and forced growers to rethink their planting plans.BY: ASHLEY ROBINSONIN MID-MARCH, the COVID-19 pandemic shut- "In Canada our growing season is a little bitplants around the world, including in China. As the down hit North America. Businesses shutteredlater than the U.S. So, we still had opportunityvirus spread through Europe in February and North and governments placed restrictions on everyday life.to reduce potato acres, Kevin MacIsaac, generalAmerica in March, the crisis plans spread with it. On potato farms across the country, farmers watchedmanager of the United Potato Growers of Canada,I dont think weve had a single regional cautiously knowing business would be affected.explains in a phone interview. In parts of the Unitedmajor manufacturer growing region that hasnt Once they started shutting down all theseStates, such as the Columbia Basin, almost 70been somehow impacted by this as it has slowly businesses, like restaurants and those types ofper cent of their acres were planted when thenbecome such a major part of our lives, Peter Dawe, things, thats when we started getting an idea thatpandemic hit, so the net result today is that somechief strategy officer for McCain, says in a phone hey, looks like theres going to be an impact onof those fields were being destroyed as the potatoesinterview.food, Russ Van Boom, a seed potato grower atwere emerging from the ground. While business dropped off for McCains Northbank Potato Farm near Edmonton, Alta. saysIt wasnt just the processing industry whichfoodservice customers, it picked up for retail. Retail in a phone interview. was seeing an effect. Seed growers had orders can- processing plants in Manitoba and New Brunswick While shoppers rushed to buy potatoes andcelled and farms which relied on temporary foreignhad to increase production while McCains other chips from grocery stores, french fries began to pileworkers scrambled to follow federal and provincialplants in Alberta, New Brunswick and Manitoba up in the freezers of processors across the country.regulations to bring workers to their farms. had to take line downtime, cut shifts and lay off The food service industry, including restaurants,employees. accounts for around 70 per cent of french fry de- PILES OF FRIES With freezer space at a premium before the mand. Even with delivery and takeout still allowed,In January, as China announced the first cases ofpandemic, processors quickly reached their brink it still couldnt cover the demand drop. It quicklyCOVID-19, McCain Foods Ltd. had a meeting withas sales dropped off. Some processing companies, became apparent planting plans were going tosenior leadership and started putting crisis planssuch as Cavendish Farms, told growers to find have to change. in place. The food processing company operatesalternative markets for 2019 crop, while others, like Potatoes harvestedlast year for McCain Foodsin Canada are still beingbought by the company and sold through alternative markets at a loss forthe food processor. PHOTO: MCCAIN FOODS4 SPUDSMART.COM SUMMER 2020'