Kevin MacIsaac

United General Manager Kevin MacIsaac

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While yield was down significantly across the country, the general manager of United Potato Growers of Canada notes in his final crop update of the year Canadian growers were able to harvest virtually all of the acres they planted.

"Growers are thankful to have received some of the best harvest weather in recent years creating rapid progress, finishing ahead of schedule," Kevin MacIsaac said in a report to industry issued October 26 " This is certainly in contrast to last year where 22,500 acres had to be left in the field and also 2018, where 18,000 acres had to be abandoned."

When the report was issued, he said Quebec was the only province with any significant acreage left. However, he said conditions had improved from the cold and wet that was the norm for October and he was predicting virtually all of the crop in that province would be in the warehouse by Halloween.

MacIsaac said production was down significantly from 2019 and below the five year average. He said the final production tally is slated to be released by Statistics Canada on December 7. The general manager said industry reports point to a decline of 7,000,000 hundred weight below the 2019 crop. That would translate into a reduction in the order of seven per cent.

He estimated the Island harvest was 98 per cent complete as of October 26. He noted the central area of the province, where approximately half of the production is centered), was most impacted by the drought, adding "Yields in non-irrigated fields in that area are variable but most are down significantly. The rest of the province should be close to average which would pull overall production down by 15%."

" Gravities are high and overall quality is excellent so storability should be very good," he said. " The PEI potato industry is anticipating strong demand, unless COVID-19 changes the situation."

The harvest was complete in New Brunswick, with a decrease in yield of 25-40% depending on the location, with those further north getting better yields. He noted "Overall this is the smallest crop that many long-term growers can remember. The size was smaller on some varieties, but those with a lower set did size up well. Gravity was up on most varieties and type was good."

He said there will be a shortage of production in all three sectors in that province. He said some tablestock has already been brought in from Quebec and processing yields will not cover contract volumes so supply will be shortened for French fry production in the province. He added seed is also in short supply and will be in high demand next spring.

Turning to Quebec, he said the yields have been good although the harvest was slow due to the cold and wet weather. He went on to say "cullage may be a little higher on defects such as off-type, and growth cracks. There may also need to be some abandonment calculations, depending on how the harvest ends on those final acres. Quebec growers are optimistic given the good demand for their product and returning good prices."

The harvest in Ontario was basically completed as of October 26, with growers reporting strong yields and predictions are the crop will be one of the best in recent years. MacIsaac added "Although the early fresh crop started off a bit light due to hot dry conditions, irrigation was a key component for some growers and good rainfall made the storage crop for others. Given the good demand in the chip industry, he said that sector may need to pull potatoes from the fresh side to meet their requirements. Plants have been running steady since August 1st. and fresh potatoes should also be in demand and command good pricing given the overall table reduction in the four eastern provinces.

"Harvest on the processing side in Manitoba was completed in record time this year with completion anywhere from September 23 to the first week of October," the general manager said. "Very few acres were not harvested this year, a relief for growers and a stark contrast to 2019 where they struggled against wet and cold conditions. Quality is good, not outstanding, but a crop that should store very well. Yields were lower than growers would have liked and will likely come up 15% short of processor needs."

Meanwhile, the tablestock crop in Manitoba was completed on October 13, much earlier than normal, due to no harvest delays. Skin set seemed to take longer this year, perhaps due to a hot dry summer, so growers had to be vigilant with skinning and also keep an eye on hard clods in the soil which exacerbated the issue. Despite that, he noted yields are near average and tuber sizes are quite variable with an unusual combination of smalls and very large potatoes coming from the same field.

The harvest is complete in Saskatchewan, with very good conditions and no abandoned acres. Yields were similar to slightly below last year.

The harvest was also complete in Alberta on October 26, due to excellent weather conditions. He added "Quality is good on both the seed and process crop. Yields appear to be very good on the seed crop and better than expected on the process crop. Yields have covered off processor requirements and processors have been purchasing some extras and moving them out of the province."

Turning to British Columbia, he said the harvest finished in early October and the crop was good quality with yields equal to last year. He added "Russets are a bit short in supply, but there are also additional yellows available for export. BC expects their market to be very stable this year for both supply and pricing."

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