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Potato surplus and halted processing impacts new Alberta crops

In a province that boasts one of the largest potato production regions in Canada, the surplus of potatoes waiting in storage due to COVID-19 is a major issue. Officials say that surplus in Alberta is now impacting future crops. Emily Olsen of Global News reports.

“Our growers will be done planting by the end of this week,” Potato Growers of Alberta Executive Director Terence Hochstein said. “They’ve got about a 25 per cent cutback on their 2020 acres, so that is going to help somewhat. But there’s still going to be about 100,000 tonnes in Alberta that have no home.”

Potatoes that remain in storage past September will have to be thrown out completely.

“It’s a huge hit, not only for our process growers but for the seed growers as well,” Hochstein said. “So that seed was already spoken for earlier on in the winter, and right now it’s been turned back or never picked up.”

The Potato Growers of Alberta projects the loss to producers at around $26 million, with another $5 to $6 million loss to seed growers alone.

The surplus is due to a number of factors, including closed restaurants and slowed processing. 

Hochstein says the crisis is already affecting many producers on a personal level. “It will be a concern to their bottom line, it will affect their operations, it’ll affect their families. It’s a very stressful time,” Hochstein said.

“We’ve constantly said Canada has got a safe food supply chain,” Hochstein said. “We do. But when a producer is stuck with raw product because of the situation, it will directly affect consumers in the long run.”

And with the backlog of potatoes unable to be processed in time, Hochstein says it won’t be a quick fix, even when the economy re-opens.

“That’s just not going to go away overnight,” he said. “This is going to take a year to work through.”

Source: Global News
Related video: Concerns from Canadian potato producers over COVID-19 impact
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