Manitoba producers need a good crop to satisfy Simplot expansion
Manitoba Agriculture Minister Ralph Eicher provided an update on the expansion of J.R. Simplot Company’s (Simplot) french fry processing plant in Portage la Prairie at Manitoba Ag Days in Brandon.
The $460 million expansion announced last year will increase the size of the facility and double the plant’s need for potatoes from regional growers. The plant is expected to be fully operational in 2020 but begin expanding its processing capacity in fall of 2019.
“I just got an update the other day,” Eichler said. “They’ll be accepting potatoes in September (and) October with the intent of being in full production by January. This year is critical to get a decent crop.”
Eichler told The Western Producer, more demand for potatoes will encourage growers to invest more money in their farms, spending on irrigation equipment and tile drainage to boost potato yields.
“The additional potato production will see Manitoba become the largest producer of potatoes in Canada.”
Manitoba growers annually harvest over 65,000 acres of potatoes, representing one-fifth of the Canada's total potato crop and making Manitoba the second-largest producer in the country. In comparison, Prince Edward Island planted 84,000 acres in 2018. Simplot will require 16,000 more acres of potatoes, putting Manitoba close to the top spot as Canada’s main potato producer.
However, a cold, wet harvest in Manitoba resulted in a decrease in potato production by 8.6 per cent and 5,200 acres of unharvested potatoes. Despite this, potato yields in Manitoba are high and growers will need good conditions in order to fulfill Simplot’s expanded capacity.