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Latest UPGC newsletter provides insights into potato trends in North America and Europe

The latest newsletter from the United Potato Growers of Canada (UPGC) provides insights into the potato market in Canada, the United States, and Europe. Below is a summary of the newsletter, compiled by UPGC General Manager, Victoria Stamper. The full newsletter with more detail can be viewed here:

North American Projections Show Promise

With projections indicating a rise in potato production in both the U.S. and Canada, industry experts are keenly observing the shifts and their potential implications.

According to the North American Potato Market News (NAPMN), the U.S. is gearing up for a bumper harvest this year. The 2023 potato crop projection stands at a whopping 429.6 million hundredweight (cwt), marking a 9.5% increase from the previous year. This surge is attributed to regions like Idaho, where the crop is anticipated to be over 20% larger than last year, making a significant contribution to the overall figures.

Meanwhile, Canada isn’t far behind in the race. The latest estimates suggest that the country is on track to produce 126.5 million cwt, a commendable 2.9% increase from the previous year. Manitoba, known for its vast agricultural landscapes, is leading the charge with an expected growth of nearly 8% in its potato crop. However, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows for every region. The Maritime provinces, for instance, might experience a dip, with forecasts indicating a 4.3% decrease.

A Deep Dive into Canada’s Potato Landscape

The newsletter offers a granular view of the potato production landscape across various Canadian provinces:

Prince Edward Island: PEI has experienced a great deal of rain this summer and up to 100 mm in some areas during the first two weeks of September. Despite challenges like excessive rainfall and the looming threat of blight, PEI’s crop looks promising. However, it might not surpass the golden year of 2022. Yields appear to be tracking a bit behind last year and we estimate a 320 cwt per acre average yield for the province, still higher than the 5 year average. The province is expected to produce around 26.3 million cwt, a slight 1.1% decrease from the previous year.

New Brunswick: The province has had its share of rainfall, but recent sunny spells promise a brighter harvest season. However, early crop reports indicate issues like hollow heart and rot, consequences of the excessive rain. Expectations are of an average to slightly below average yield and a low set. With this in mind, we have estimated abandoned acres at around 1,100, and an average yield of 310, below last year but still above the 6 year average. This would give an estimated 16 million cwt in production for the province, approximately 940,000 cwt below last year’s good crop.

Quebec: With about 15% of the harvest completed, Quebec is battling challenges from the excessive summer rain. Losses are expected to be around 10%, with some areas predicting even more. The processing sector acreage is having some of the same issues with yields and quality as the fresh sector, however the northern fields, particularly in the seed sector report much better conditions. With upwards of 2,300 acres expected to be lost for various reasons, and a yield expected to be off by up to 10-15% on average, we are estimating a much lower production for Quebec this year at just under 12.8 million cwt.

Ontario: The province is witnessing a smooth harvest season with good quality yields. The Simcoe/Delhi area has seen excellent yields and quality from the early crop, the Alliston area with heavier soil is still reporting a good crop however there have been some cases of late blight. Our expectation is that growers will harvest 36,695 acres and although that is less than in 2022 combined with a better than expected average yield of 230 cwt per acre, production for the province is estimated to be up just over 3% for this season at approximately 8.4 million cwt.

Manitoba: The province is halfway through its harvest, with quality reports looking favorable. However, dryland regions have faced the brunt of a dry summer. Quality is very good but yields in the fresh sector are estimated as average to perhaps below average depending on the field. The dryland regions have had their driest year ever with perhaps 1” of rain all summer in certain areas. Irrigated fields have faired better reporting a good, but not fantastic, crop with lower sets. In the processing sector the crop has been very good, with growers reporting great quality and good size profile. Despite challenges, Manitoba is poised for a record production of 28.2 million cwt for 2023.

Saskatchewan: Harvest is estimated to be just over 50% done, with nearly ideal digging conditions. The province is reporting a good crop with above average quality, however dryland areas have had poorer results due to such a hot and dry summer. We have targeted an average yield of 240 cwt per acre for the province and combined with 7,285 acres harvested, we would estimate total production to be 1.7 million cwt, up just over 20% from last year.

Alberta: Reports are of a big crop with good yields overall, sandier ground of course impacted by such a dry and hot summer, but the heavier ground is doing very well. Water supplies for irrigation in southern Alberta, where the majority of the processing crop is grown, did become tight through August but were sufficient to pull through until the start of harvest. With planted acres up in the province over last year, we also expect harvested acres to be up as well, around 79,600 acres this year. Combined with good yield predictions of 395 UPGC estimates overall production in Alberta to be just shy of 31.5 million cwt, a 17% increase over last year.

British Columbia: The province has experienced the warmest and driest summer in memory, with only about 2 inches of rain from April until now. Harvest is going very well, despite the on-going drought conditions. Better than average crop reported both in yields and overall production.

U.S. Market Dynamics

The U.S. fresh-potato market is buzzing with activity. Shipments for the 2023-24 marketing year are forecasted to reach 89,880 million cwt, surpassing the previous year. However, imports from Canada are expected to see a decline. The 2023-24 marketing year might witness imports of 6.600 million cwt, a decrease from the 8 million in 2022-23. Idaho’s significant crop is anticipated to be a game-changer, influencing the russet market dynamics across North America.

European Market Insights

Europe’s potato market is undergoing its set of changes. Dutch potato yields, for instance, have shown resilience despite initial setbacks. However, Europe remains untouched by the price drops observed in North America. Dutch growers are grappling with challenges due to a European directive on harvesting timelines, which might impact the overall production. The North-Western European Potato Growers (NEPG) has projected a production of 23 million tonnes for 2023, indicating a shift from table to processing acres.

In Conclusion

As the potato market navigates through these changes, industry stakeholders are gearing up for a season of opportunities and challenges. With regions like Idaho and Manitoba showing promising figures, the global potato landscape is set for some interesting times ahead.

The upcoming events, like the monthly UPGC conference call on October 19 and the Potato Business Summit in January 2024, are expected to shed more light on these market dynamics.

Source: United Potato Growers of Canada (UPGC). The full newsletter with more detail can be viewed here
Victoria Stamper, General Manager
Cover image: Harvest 2023, Prince Edward Island, St Peters Bay. Credit Victoria Stamper

Editor & Publisher: Lukie Pieterse

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