Weather conditions are delaying the development of the 2019 potato crop in most areas of the country, says the general manager of United Potato Growers of Canada.
Kevin MacIsaac said as of mid-June, approximately 98 per cent of the Island crop had been planted. The season is a week to ten days late due to cold and wet conditions in the spring, but he said some warm temperatures in early June led to earlier emergence than in 2018.
The general manager said holdings for the old crop were down 20.5 per cent with a 31 per cent decline in the fresh market. Overall, shipments were down 12 per cent from last year with a 26 per cent drop to the American market.While supplies have been tight, he said major packers are able to supply their main customers.
The price for a ten pound bag as of mid June was $3.25 compared to $2.48 a year ago, while the Grower Return Index weighted average for all markets was $21 compared to $18 for the same period last year. MacIsaac noted "even cull potatoes picked up at wash plants are commanding a premium price that would rival Canada Number 1 product in ordinary years."
On the processing side, he said Cavendish Farms has imported potatoes from Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Maine, Alberta and Idaho. MacIsaac said he was surprised there was some seed left over and imported seed was down 25 per cent compared to the spring of 2018.
"With the late season, there will be very little early crop this year and processors will be very tight, sourcing non-traditional varieties such as Kennebec to start fry lines on the new crop," he said. "Acreage estimates at this time are for a slight increase in fresh acres."
Turning to New Brunswick, he said the season was late but most growers had finished plantingby June 7. Old crop holdings are down 31.5 per cent and an increase of 1,000 acres is expected in the processing sector. New Brunswick has applied for Agri-Recovery assistance for last year's crop but no announcement has yet been made.
In Quebec, old crop holdings are down four per cent compared to last year. Fresh stocks were up on June 1 and MacIsaac said the market is not behaving that way with good demand and good prices, Larger customers are being supplied and appear to have enough to make the turn into a new crop year.
He said quality was "excellent" in the product now being shipped with prices of $3.75 for a ten pound bag on colours and $3.65 on russets. Due to a cold and wet spring, planting was seven to ten days behind. An increase of 1,000 acres for processing and another 1,000 acres for the fresh market is predicted.
"Ontario is becoming tight, particularly with reds," MacIsaac said. "Holdings on June 1 were down 24 per cent compared to a year ago and the crop has been a late one with wet conditions and is about a week to ten days later than normal."
Manitoba processors are importing crop from North Dakota and Alberta due to low stocks. The United general manager said potatoes with quality issues such as colour and decay related to last fall's harvest are being disposed of. There has been very little rain since seeding and emergence has been sporadic. MacIsaac said the table crop in Manitoba now has a high shortage of reds, compared to just a month ago when reds were being sold at low prices. He said the crop is about a week behind.
"Saskatchewan is unbelievably dry and lack of moisture is having an impact on the other field crops being grown there," he said. "Normally they get at least one rain after planting, however it has just not happened this year. Potato acreage is expected to be flat or slightly up from last year."
Alberta is moving processing potatoes from last year's crop to Manitoba and PEI, while much of its table crop at this time of year comes from Manitoba. While planting proceeds more or less on schedule, conditions have been dry for the fourth year in a row. Table acreage is expected to decline with processing acreage will be up by 7,000 thanks to demand for a new Cavendish planting slated to open in August.
In British Columbia, the early plant was a little late being planted but it is being dug now. MacIsaac said skin set potatoes will be available by July, adding "it has been an almost perfect spring with most planting done by May 20 and good growing conditions since. Planted acreage is expected to be similar to last year,"