Potato market sees change from 2012
By Andy Walker
The market for tablestock potatoes will be much different in 2013 than was the case just a year ago.
Back in 2012, the general manager of the United Potato Growers of Canada was telling producers there was a distinct possibility there would be shortages before the end of the shipping season. This time around, Kevin MacIsaac told the annual potato partners seminar held by the United Potato Growers of Canada, production was up by nine per cent.
MacIsaac, who is a former chair of the PEI Potato Board, said this province largely escaped the weather related damage that hit the crop in parts of Manitoba, Alberta, Quebec and Ontario especially hard.
In fact, Island production was up two per cent from last year, with the yield approximately the same at 285 hundredweight to the acre. MacIsaac said there are significant storage issues in parts of the country resulting in a higher cullage rate.
South of the border, he said production is up especially in the three biggest producing states—Idaho (11 per cent); Washington (5.5 per cent) and Wisconsin (10.5 per cent).
The general manager said the potatoes in storage are up seven million hundredweight from last year.
He added movement on the fresh market has been slow and told growers to expect some challenges for the next several months. MacIsaac said production slated for the fresh market in Eastern Canada is up 11.4 per cent compared to last year.
On the processing side, he said production is up 2.7 per cent in PEI and 13.9 per cent throughout eastern Canada. MacIsaac said the largest increase was in New Brunswick at 59.2 per cent. On the seed side, PEI was essentially the same but there was a ten per cent decrease in the region.
The general manager explained that since the creation of the United movement in both Canada and the United States, the value of processing contracts in the province has gone from $7.38 per hundredweight to $8.68. MacIsaac said PEI is the first province where that type of information has been compiled, but added the organization hopes to compile similar data for all potato growing areas.
“PEI has the best data anywhere in the country,” he said.
On another front, MacIsaac said communicating with growers will be a major priority for the next year. The general manager said it is vital to have as much information as possible to make informed decisions.
He said there is a need to measure grower profitability. He noted data released at the recent Agri-Insight Conference suggests that while PEI has the highest revenue in terms of potato sales, it has the lowest profitability margin in the country.
“We really haven’t had a chance to look into why that is happening,” he said.
As well he said the organization is looking at developing stable funding for the future, including the possibility of instituting a grower levy.