News August 2020, North America, Production/Agronomy

Canada’s Alberta potato growers concerned as 2020 harvest gets underway

While the 2020 potato harvest is well underway in southern Alberta, the Potato Growers of Alberta say lingering concerns about global french fry markets due to COVID-19 is putting a bit of a damper on an otherwise joyful time of year for local potato farmers, reports Tim Kalinowski for the Lethbridge Herald.

“The 2019 crop is now complete and done,” says PGA executive director Terence Hochstein. “It has been processed. And we are just starting here in the last couple weeks on the 2020 crop. But due to the COVID situation, not only here in Canada but also in the U.S. and globally, there is no guarantee what we put in the shed this year will be used completely.

“We are going to put it in the shed, and we’re going to harvest it,” he adds. “What becomes of the crop after? That is entirely dependent on the COVID situation. I think we are going to be alright, but there is no guarantee.”

Local potato processing plants either halted or drastically curtailed production on the 2019 harvest after the COVID-19 pandemic shut down restaurants all over the world, leaving few markets for selling frozen french fries.

With processors’ freezers full, and without other processing options, Hochstein told The Herald earlier this year he feared what remained of the 2019 potato crop in storage may have to be destroyed. Thankfully, says Hochstein, it largely never came to that after producers found a home for the crop in the fresh food and livestock feed markets.

According to what his growers are telling him, Hochstein says this year’s crop is certainly no bumper. But, he admits, most are just fine with that given the ongoing uncertainties in processing capacity in a still tumultuous global food economy.

“It’s just going to be an average crop, but average might be OK,” he states. “If the growers have an opportunity to harvest enough to meet their contracts this year, it might just be good enough.”

Read the full report in the Lethbridge Herald here
Photo: A crop of potatoes grows in the hot summer sun Tuesday in a field near Chin between Coaldale and Taber, Alberta. Herald photo by Ian Martens @IMartensHerald

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Lukie Pieterse, Editor and Publisher of Potato News Today

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