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Final Canadian crop report: Production well below average, but good harvest season

“As this final crop report of the season is prepared, potato harvest in Canada is complete in most provinces with the exception of Quebec,” says Kevin MacIsaac, General Manager of the United Potato Growers of Canada (UPGC). He writes that growers are about 90% done, and hopefully should finish up by October 31 as the weather forecast improves from the wet and cold conditions experienced over the last couple of weeks.

MacIsaac says that “in other areas, growers are thankful to have received some of the best harvest weather in recent years creating rapid progress, finishing ahead of schedule. 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.”

“Based on what we know today, Canadian Potato Production is substantially below that of 2019 and below our 5-yr. average,” MacIsaac writes in his report. “Statistics Canada is currently collecting yield data from potato producers until November 16th with the final production estimate available on December 7th. In the meantime, reports from the various provinces could point to a decline of 7,000,000 hundred weight below the 2019 crop.”

MacIsaac reports that, based on the hot dry growing season experienced in many provinces, “we had earlier on put reductions at 6,000,000 hundred weight but revised it after New Brunswick growers finished harvesting and realized one of their lowest yields on record. Country wide, this would translate to a 7% reduction, however we will wait for our most accurate data on December 7th.”

Looking across the various sectors, fresh production has been shortened up in the provinces of PEI and New Brunswick. Table potatoes have been moving from Quebec into New Brunswick for some time now to replenish some of that supply.

According to MacIsaac, french fry plants in PEI, New Brunswick, and Manitoba also will not likely to be able to cover all of their needs without importing potatoes from other areas.

Seed potato supplies could be tight for spring planting. Chip production appears to be up in Ontario, and Quebec, and all of that supply is needed to meet increased demand.

Below is a detailed provincial update provided by Kevin MacIsaac in his final report of the year.

Prince Edward Island:

The potato harvest on PEI is 98% completed. Many growers have finished and those still harvesting will wrap up the last 1,000-1,500 acres in the next few days. The final week has been a little wet but otherwise, digging conditions have been excellent. The central part of the island (where 50% of the crop is grown), was most affected by the drought this summer. 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. The PEI potato industry is anticipating strong demand, unless COVID-19 changes the situation.

New Brunswick:

Harvest is complete in New Brunswick with all acres being harvested due to excellent harvest conditions. The yield is down anywhere from 25-40% depending on the location, with those further north getting better yields. 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.

There will be a shortage of production in all sectors; for table, some supply has been brought in from Quebec, both for storage and to feed packing lines. The current size profile will need increased demand for smaller sized packs to accommodate this year

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