The COVID-19 pandemic has drastically altered potato demand across North America, however the demand changes may have come too late for farmers to fully adjust their planting plans, the April 22 issue of North American Potato Market News says.
“Ground has been rented, fumigated, and prepared for potatoes. Seed has been purchased,” the report says. However, reducing potato acres may still be the best way for Russet potato growers to minimize losses, the report notes.
“The depth and duration of the demand disruption created by the COVID-19 pandemic is impossible to know with any certainty. However, a quick economic recovery is becoming less and less likely as the pandemic progresses.”
Even once foodservice establishments are allowed to reopen, there will likely still be physical distancing rules in place which could reduce restaurant capacity by up to 50 per cent, the report notes. Some restaurants may not reopen due to bankruptcy. In the best case foodservice sales will fall by only 20 per cent for 2020/21.
One of the hardest hit in the potato industry may be seed growers who have faced last minute cancellations leaving them with a large amount of unsold product, the report says. “Debates about who should pay for the seed will continue for years. In the meantime, seed growers must decide how many potatoes to plant for the 2020 crop. While the industry hopes demand will rebound by 2021, growers are reluctant to grow more seed than they sold this year.”