Supplies of Prince Edward Island, Canada potatoes are low.
“It’s still early in the season —harvest, for some, just finished this month. I don’t think we have a full handle on the supplies nationwide, but right now, supplies on PEI are down approximately 15 percent overall. We initially thought it would be down 20-30 percent,” says Jennifer Harris of Mid Isle Farms in Albany, PEI.
She notes the drop in supplies are largely weather-related. “Even though PEI is so small, we have three different weather zones. The eastern and western part of the province got a few more rains than the central area. Some growers in the central area are down 20-40 percent. And 60 percent of Prince Edward Island’s table potatoes come from the central part of the province,” says Harris.
Sizing has also been affected by the lack of rains. “We’re seeing a variety of sizes. There are a more than average amount of smalls in some lots and some good table market size run in others. But we are also seeing some product where the grower was fortunate to get large sizes as well--it’s a mixed bag,” she says. “Similar to last year, yields and sizing are very variety dependent, as well as the timeliness of the rain during the potatoes growth cycle.” She does add that harvest was strong given new rains had arrived in September which softened the ground providing ideal harvest conditions.
As for demand, it’s strong. “Right now, PEI is approximately 16 percent ahead of shipments so far year to date. Things are brisk and started off strong and early,” says Harris. “I think a lot of packing sheds are probably ahead compared to last year.” She adds that it’s hard to know if the lockdowns being seen across various regions in North America will boost demand of potatoes, a commodity that proved to be a popular staple particularly in the early part of the pandemic. “With the latest lockdowns, what we do have this time is experience. We at least have an idea of what could happen next. In March, we had no idea what the pandemic was going to look like or what to expect,” says Harris.
Meanwhile pricing is strong and Harris says it has been up marginally over last year. “Times are so uncertain it’s hard to know where pricing is going to go. Although I do expect strength in prices throughout the season,” she says.