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Canadian processors face potato shortage

The weather on Prince Edward Island this fall mostly consisted of rain and more rain. From P.E.I. to Alberta, this fall was a massive migraine for potato growers. As a result, about 4 percent of the crop was not harvested and potato processors are facing a shortfall.

“This has been a very difficult harvest in almost all provinces in Canada,” said Kevin MacIsaac, United Potato Growers of Canada general manager. “Approximately 15,000 acres in the country had to be abandoned which will have implications for our supply this marketing season.”

Seeing how Canada typically has some 350,000 acres of spuds, 15,000 acres doesn’t sound like a lot. But the potato industry carefully manages its production so supply and demand are aligned. When 4.3 percent of acres are lost, processors will struggle to replace the missing potatoes.

Cavendish Farms operates a frozen potato processing plant in New Annan, P.E.I. It may have to bring in potatoes from off the Island to produce French fries and other products. In 2017, Cavendish had to bring in potatoes from Manitoba, Alberta and elsewhere as well, because a drought on P.E.I. reduced potato yields and overall production. Simplot and McCain Foods, which have processing plants in Portage la Prairie and Carberry, Man., will also be short on potatoes.

Alberta is likely the only province with a slight excess in production. MacIsaac said about 500 acres in Alberta were abandoned. In the U.S., Idaho, Washington state and Oregon all produced more potatoes this year than expected. But shipping potatoes from the north-western U.S. to processing plants in Canada is expensive. The cost of transporting spuds by rail and truck to P.E.I. is likely higher than the value of the potatoes.


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