Potato Processors Face Spud Shortages in Most of Canada
Manufacturers of frozen french fries and other value-added potato products in Canada are currently coping with a shortfall of tubers as approximately 15,000 acres of cropland were abandoned because of adverse weather conditions this autumn. Too much rain as well as frost and snow in Prince Edward Island and other provinces during the fall harvest season made it especially challenging to pull spuds out of the ground.
“It has been a difficult harvest in almost all provinces,” said Kevin MacIsaac, general manager of the United Potato Growers of Canada. He added that the loss of 4.3% of planted acreage across the country “will have implications for our supply this marketing season.”
MacIsaac issued a comprehensive province-by-province report on “the final potato harvest situation” on November 26, as follows:
Prince Edward Island
After a month of very high rainfall, the last suitable day for harvest was November 9. Many growers dug for 24 hours around the clock until rain came again in the early hours of November 10. Abnormally cold temperatures dipped to -15 Celsius and two snowstorms since have prevented further progress.
The PEI Potato Board surveyed all growers and estimates that 6,800 acres were unable to be harvested. All four sectors of processing, table, seed and chip stock have been affected in that order. Between 2.0 and 2.5 million hundredweight may have been left in the ground due to extreme weather conditions.
Growers could not catch a break from early frost in the spring, to a summer of drought, to excessive rains at harvest. Some fields still had water between the rows and had to be abandoned.
When cold weather set in many growers had 20 to 25 acres left to finish and one grower had a very large block to harvest. Estimated acreage unharvested is between 500 to 1,500 acres. In addition, those later harvested acres have some cold damage. Yields were relatively good, however defects are a concern for both fresh and processing with regard to off types, gravity and color.
The harvest turned difficult in the northern part of Quebec and cold temperatures stalled harvests. The estimate of acres that had to be abandoned is close to 2,000. A dry summer had reduced overall yields, but an even bigger concern is the size profile. An early frost stopped tubers from bulking into that chef or jumbo size.
Most of the crop got harvested. The province had a difficult late harvest with wet conditions, however the temperatures never dipped to the extremes of other provinces. Given the hot and dry summer, many warehouses are not full and others do not have potatoes stored in them at all. Size profile is also a concern for chef markets.
The harvest in Manitoba has left 5,200 acres abandoned due to adverse weather conditions. This 2,000,000 cwt. was mostly designated for the processing market. In addition, the last several thousand acres dug after severe cold temperatures are now having storage difficulties as they warm up. Processing potatoes are currently being imported to meet commitments.
Severe cold in Saskatchewan stalled harvesting when it was only 35% complete. Some acreage was harvested after the frost and others were abandoned.
There was still 5% of the crop to be harvested when snow and/or cold weather set in. However after a four-week period the temperature did warm up and the soil dried allowing most of harvest to be completed. About 500 acres had to be abandoned. Color was lost after the cold and warehouses containing those potatoes are being monitored closely for storage issues.
Harvesting went well, allowing growers to complete the job before bad weather set in. Yields were above last year, and also of good quality.