Prince Edward Island potato farmers will likely be planting less crop this season because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Because of social distancing restrictions, Islanders are eating more meals at home instead of dining out. This in turn is impacting not only the potato industry, but other industries like shellfish, and dairy as well.
Darryl Wallace, of Wallace Family Farms Ltd said most, if not all product from the farm is shipped to Cavendish Farms. He said farmers are just starting to sign contracts with the company, so it’s hard to say how much less they’ll be growing. “Initially, they were talking 20 per cent cuts, but I think it’s going to be less than that, it will be somewhere between 15 acres growing for the processing,” he said. “It’s not all profit, that 15 per cent, but your margins are that much smaller when you cut back.”
Farmers in the province will soon begin planting their crops, but Greg Donald, chair of the PEI Potato Board, said there’s a lot of uncertainty right now, not only with the impact of COVID-19, but because of climate change, and less than predictable seasonal weather.
“They’re planting right now with their best guess of what the market is going to need next fall,” he said. “There’s a lot of anxiety around the marketplace, the restaurant business, when will it be back, and will it be back to normal in the next year, all those sorts of things.”
On April 23, the provincial government announced that it will be providing $4.7 million in an effort to help with the surplus of potatoes caused by the pandemic, and that the province will be helping both producers and processors with the cost of shipping and storing potatoes. It will also be providing up to $8.8 million in support to farmers through its business risk management program over the next two years.