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Smallest crop since 1918: Maine potato growers rise to the challenge of weather and pandemic

This past year has thrown several challenges at Maine potato farmers, leading to decreased production amidst the chaos of a pandemic, reports J. McHenry for The Produce News.

The USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service’s crop production forecast for November reported Maine potato production at 13.4 million cwt, down 20 percent from last year’s forecast. The report further explained planted acreage at 51 thousand acres is down 2 percent and the yield forecast at 265 cwt per acre is down 18 percent from last year.

Bob Davis, president at Maine Farmers Exchange, based in Presque Isle, ME, attributed the decrease to a very dry summer. “It will make our crop the smallest Maine has had since 1918,” he said. “Dry weather was not our friend.”

The drought negatively affected most of the growing regions this past year according to Ken Gad, president of Cambridge Farms, based in South Easton, MA.

With production down and the effects of the pandemic, returns to the grower are even more important this year. “We must look at how to create a scenario where we can get growers enough return on a smaller crop to keep them in business,” explained Gad. “At the same time, we need to ensure value at the retail store since consumers are very price conscious. It’s challenging all around.”

Transportation presents an additional wrench in the gears this year. “Freight has become a major factor,” said Gad. “Everybody is talking about how much it takes to get it from point A to point B.”

Source: The Produce News. Read the full report here
Photo: Paul Cyr

Lukie Pieterse, Editor and Publisher of Potato News Today

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