Markets and Marketing
Production forecast down, but overall potato estimates highest ever
November 22, 2023 By Potatoes in Canada
United Potato Growers of Canada (UPGC) released its updated production forecast last week based on October, saying it expects overall production to be down from previous estimates, but still be an increase over last year.
With recent developments in the processing sector, UPGC revised its production estimates downward from its September forecast. Based on weather for harvest in October for the eastern provinces, as well as acres taken out of production in the west, UPGC sees overall production down close to 800 cwt from its earlier estimate, but still an increase of 2.6 per cent over last year and the highest ever for the country.
Despite decreases in the east, fresh sector potatoes should be readily available for domestic markets as pricing pressure due to oversupply in the pacific northwest continues to impact exports to the U.S.
P.E.I. has been fighting rain and now snow as they attempt to get the last few thousand acres into storage. Although not behind schedule as the province traditionally goes right out to Halloween, there has been some difficulty in the second half of the month getting into the fields. There are some concerns about storability as most of what is left to harvest are the Burbanks, which have now been subject to the most water, growers will be keeping a close eye throughout the winter.
The situation is similar in neighbouring New Brunswick. Although much closer to finishing harvest, they have had the same wet conditions as P.E.I. and Quebec throughout the growing season, with many saying the first three weeks of the month made the entire difference in the crop this year. This same great weather for harvest was enjoyed in Quebec as well, who are now close to finished harvesting the storage crop. Issues of hollow heart that were seen in the russets in New Brunswick were also seen in Quebec, mostly in the processing sector. The reds and yellows have fared much better in the province with reports of good quality. Storage so far is going well but there are concerns of potential losses over the winter.
Ontario started off with a similar wet and rainy June and July but did not experience the heavy rainfall seen in Quebec evidenced in the good crop this year. There were greater than average yields in the province and harvest conditions were decent for the most part, however, many growers are expecting a higher grade-out and potential issues with storage due to some wet conditions in the later weeks of harvest.
After a very hot and dry start to the growing season in Manitoba, July and August were a bit better as temperatures moderated. In the mostly irrigated processing sector fields, the yields were very good and within a couple of weeks of the start of harvest there were calls from growers looking for storage. This oversupply, along with damaged fields from hailstorms, is unfortunately resulting in growers abandoning up to 2,000 acres in the province. The fresh sector in Manitoba is reporting a very good crop considering that most of the reds and yellows are on dryland. Irrigated fields are noting very good yields, but the sector as a whole is estimating an average crop overall.
In Saskatchewan, the seed crop has done very well, despite a very hot May, as with Manitoba the weather improved through the season. Dryland areas may be below the three-year average, however, the irrigated fields are forecasting an excellent crop.
It is important to note that all seed areas across the country are reporting very good crops this year, even in Quebec, which was the hardest hit with precipitation, the seed sector further north was not as hard hit.
Alberta had an extremely dry year, going on three years now of drought-like conditions, reporting that irrigation supply was empty for the first time at the end of the growing season. They will need a good snowpack or may face allocation next year. Despite these conditions there was a very good crop and, unfortunately, Alberta is also caught up in the oversupply situation in the processing sector in the Pacific Northwest and processors will not be taking all of the potatoes coming out of the ground in the province this year.
In British Columbia, despite no more than two inches of rain from May through to September, growers have reported an excellent crop, and the bins are full. Although below the five-year average, production estimates for 2023 are greater than the last two years.
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