French fry spud supply will be tight and fresh potato supplies, not so much.
While french fry processors in Canada may be digging to find potatoes to fill their production needs, those looking for fresh potatoes for their kitchen tables will easily find spuds. Which is all due to the location of where those potatoes are grown.
Across Western Canada, growers have had to battle with prolonged periods of hot and dry weather. While some spuds were able to receive timely irrigation, others weren’t. For table potatoes, a large portion of which are grown in the four eastern provinces who experienced optimal growing conditions.
“Depends on where you are. If you were in Western Canada, from Ontario west, it’s probably looking a lot different than it you are in the far eastern provinces. It’s kind of a reversal of last year at this time,” Kevin MacIsaac, general manager of the United Potato Growers of Canada (UPGC), says in a phone interview.
While MacIsaac expects there will be enough potatoes to fill processing needs, it will require processors to move spuds around the country making supply tight. The crop is looking above average in the east and below average in the west, which may be a problem as the west has increased processing capacity.
“We started out with the intention of a much higher production than what we’re going to receive, because the two provinces that produce a very large percentage of the processing potatoes are Alberta and Manitoba, and at this point, we would say that their yield is off from what we had expected due to the growing conditions,” MacIsaac explains.
On the other hand, the table potato market is looking better than it has in a few years. With most fresh potatoes grown in the east, minus Peak of the Market in Manitoba and British Columbia, there are more potatoes available than there has been for the past few years.
“There will be significant production in Quebec. The other probably anomaly is that in Ontario, for some of the early table varieties. The early crop is generally not as high yielding, but this year was very, very good because of the water availability that they had. So, there was some good crops taken off earlier in the season,” MacIsaac says.
The chip market is looking good, with decent reported yields so far. However, due to hurricanes which have hit the eastern seaboard there is expected to be some unharvested acres with the extra moisture, MacIsaac adds.
The drought in Western Canada is still causing concern though as Alberta is a major supplier of Canadian potato seed. In the central and up into the northern area it isn’t looking as bad, but other parts aren’t looking as good.
“It depends where you were and where you farm was if you’ve got rain shower or not. So probably yields are going to be off from what we’ve needed, or you expected there,” MacIsaac says.
U.S. Supply Situation Concerning
The United States potato crop is variable across the country. In the Columbia Basin, things are aren’t up to the usual standard, while into Idaho and the Midwest, things aren’t the best, with the east coast looking good again. This means supply will be tight for processors.
“I think that it’s going to be very costly for the processors to supplement this crop. And so, they’ll have some tough choices to make as to whether or not it makes better business sense to short a customer or bypass a sales opportunity or to go out and pay the extra for the additional raw product,” Dale Lathim, executive director of the Potato Growers of Washington, Inc., says in a phone interview.
Growers in Idaho usually plant extra acres which they then sell on the free market depending on where supply is needed. Lathim has heard processors are already bidding on potatoes in Idaho at US$1.50 per hundred weight over contract price.
“There’s going to be a premium on size. And so I think that it’s going to be very costly for the processors to supplement this crop,” he says.