Potatoes in Canada

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UPGC: Potato season reels from COVID-19 impact, but some markets fairly stable

UPGC estimates Canadian potato acreage could be down 15,000 acres, mostly due to cuts in processing contracts. However, seed and fresh acres are stable, while chip acres have slightly increased.

June 19, 2020  By Potatoes in Canada/UPGC

A potato crop begins to flower. Photo courtesy of David White.

The COVID-19 pandemic affected the movement of Canada’s 2019 potato crop in a big way,¬†according to Kevin MacIsaac, general manager of the United Potato Growers of Canada (UPGC).

On May 13, 2020 surveys across all the respective provinces in Canada showed about 760 million pounds of potatoes that were surplus at that time. The decreased demand from restaurant closures left more potatoes in storage, and especially impacted the processing market.  The excess at that time, according to UPGC, was valued at $105 million, with $92 million for processing and $13 million for seed potatoes.

Since early May, potatoes have gone for many different uses to try and move them before the 2020 crop needs to be stored. MacIsaac shares that fresh market channels took what they could, Dehy has been busy, and processors agreed to run longer on old crop and even sourced out additional freezer capacity to do so. Some potatoes have gone to feed lots. Some piles are now being buried.


MacIsaac says the UPGC have noticed that each week the message from processors seemed to be changing somewhat, thinking they might use more volume than originally thought. That scenario across North America has escalated in recent days, he continues.

Unfortunately, seed producers were big losers in this deal, as their situation changed very little over time, MacIsaac notes. According to a May 1 update, potato seed inventory across Canada was 0.9 per cent below the three-year average at 5.5 million hundredweight (cwt), however UPGC said at the time that some of the available seed wouldn’t get planted.

For the 2020 crop, UPGC’s official acreage estimate will not be out until mid-July, but it is estimated that Canadian potato acreage could be down 15,000 acres, most directly related to cuts in processing contracts. At this time, UPGC do not see much reduction in seed acres while fresh acres are flat for some provinces and increased in a couple of others. Chip acres will have slight increases, reacting to good demand over the past few months.

It is estimated that Canadian potato acreage could be down 15,000 acres, most directly related to cuts in processing contracts.

Planting season

Overall, UPGC update states that the planting season went well for most provinces, with a cool start but few interruptions due to wet weather.

Planting was more challenged in Manitoba with wet soils from last fall and very cool temperatures this spring, so the crop is five to seven days later.

Planting finished up last week in the provinces of P.E.I and Ontario. Growing conditions have been very good, with adequate moisture, however most areas are reporting that soils now would like some rainfall, as these areas seem to get more and more desiccating winds each succeeding year. A lot of fields in the eastern part of the country are at emergence.

In the west, Manitoba stands are eight inches high, Alberta is a week away from row closure, and in British Columbia they have been digging their early Warba variety for three weeks now.

In terms of weather events, Manitoba did have a hard frost on May 27 which froze off emerged plants, and Alberta had a hailstorm last week which defoliated 2,000 acres.

“The crop has good potential, but we are going to need to work hard, to clean up the old crop at a later than normal date, as the new crop transitions in on schedule,” the UPGC update concludes.

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