News June 2020

Pandemic impact: Why American potato farmers are stuck with billions of pounds of potatoes

When COVID-19 closed down restaurants and hotels, potatoes headed toward food service had nowhere to go. It had a chain effect down to processors and growers, trapping 1.5 billion pounds of potatoes in the supply chain. While farmers across Idaho and Montana have given away millions of potatoes, they’ve also been forced to destroy millions more. Business Insider visited a potato seed farm in Sheridan, Montana, to understand the emotional and financial impact this has had on farmers Peggy and Bill Buyan

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Canada: Alberta potato farmers optimistic for harvest after pandemic soiled supply lines

Alberta potato growers are banking on a healthy harvest after COVID-19 decimated their supply system this spring. Terrence Hochstein, executive director of Potato Growers of Alberta, said the pandemic has cost seed potato farmers in the province between $4.5 million and $5 million in lost revenue. Alberta’s processing industry in terms of french fry production has decreased about 20 per cent this season compared to last, or approximately 7,500 acres.

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Potato Showcase week: AHDB to share market, agronomy, research information with growers

The British potato industry would usually gather over the course of the summer with events across the country, but due to current restrictions AHDB says it is facing the challenges of finding new ways to get together and share information across the industry. The Potato Knowledge Exchange team at AHDB pulled together a week long programme of information – 6th to 9th July – which would have been showcased in field activities.

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The humble potato: How it became a global food source and changed the world

A staple food for cultures across the globe, the tuber has emerged as a nutritional giant and the friend of peasants, rulers and sages. Even today, its possibilities are endless. So says Diego Arguedas Ortiz in an article published on the BBC’s website. He reference food historian Rebecca Earle’s observation in her book Feeding the People: The Politics of the Potato: “Despite its origins in the Andes, it’s an incredibly successful global food,” she writes, “It’s grown practically everywhere in the world, and practically everywhere, people consider it one of ‘our foods’.”

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Univ of Maine researchers want to enhance competitiveness of potato rotation crops

A team of University of Maine at Presque Isle faculty members and students have begun work in the Zillman Family Greenhouse on a research project funded by a $12,333 USDA Specialty Crops Block Grant. The project aims to support Maine potato growers by enhancing the competitiveness of potato rotation crops through cropping system innovations. The research team is working to determine if mycorrhizal inoculant can improve the seed yield and plant biomass of oat and barley varieties commonly grown as rotation crops by potato farmers in Maine.

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Report: The global potato market hits record highs

IndexBox has just published a new report: ‘World – Potato – Market Analysis, Forecast, Size, Trends and Insights’. We re-publish a part of a summary of the report’s key findings below – the full summary can be viewed on the IndexBox website. The report says that in 2019, the global potato market increased by 6% to $140.5B, rising for the third consecutive year after two years of decline. The market value increased at an average annual rate of +3.0% from 2007 to 2019; the trend pattern indicated some noticeable fluctuations being recorded throughout the analyzed period. Over the period under review, the global market hits record highs in 2019.

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Research breakthrough: Fast-maturing, resilient potatoes in Hutton researchers’ sights

New research by James Hutton Institute plant scientists has found that a specific protein encoded by the potato genome is a key component of tuberisation – the process by which the potato plant initiates and develops tubers. It is hoped that the genetic discovery will be harnessed by potato breeders to develop fast-maturing, more resilient potato varieties that will safeguard production in an era of climate change, work that is being taken forward with industry partners.

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McCain building its first potato processing plant in Russia

The Russian language newspaper Kommersant reports that McCain Foods recently started with the construction of its first potato processing plant in the Russian Federation. A Kommersant source in the market confirmed that McCain is working on a project building a plant for the production of French fries, which is reportedly being built in the Uzlovaya Industrial Zone in Tula Oblast in European Russia.

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US potato industry focuses on re-establishing, growing America’s love of potatoes

The National Potato Council held their first ever virtual event this week. There’s been remarkable changes in the food system over the last few months because of COVID-19. That’s led to a lot of adjustments to the potato industry. “The versatility, the commonality and the nutritional benefits of the potato solidified our position with consumers—many of whom cooked their first potatoes at home over the past 90 days,” said Blair Richardson, CEO of Potatoes USA. Despite the hardships that COVID has presented, Richardson is still bullish for the potato industry.

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‘Fight Against Blight’ resumes in Britain: Now accepting blight samples, reaching out to volunteer scouts

British potato growers are able to submit fresh blight samples for analysis again as the James Hutton Institute (JHI) re-opens its labs. AHDB reports that the news will be welcome to potato growers following a number of blight warnings around the UK in the last few days. JHI was previously unable to accept samples due to government restrictions. The service offers growers a chance to contribute to ongoing work genotyping strains of blight. It relies on ‘blight scouts’ submitting samples from potato crops.

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Potato consumption rebound in Canada put squeeze on reduced acreage

Potato acres across Canada are expected to be down for 2020, due to contract volume cuts in March as the pandemic lockdown hit North America, writes Shel Zolkewich in an article published by Spudsmart magazine. Kevin MacIsaac, general manager of the United Potato Growers of Canada, told Zolkewich in a phone interview. “We thought we would have far too many potatoes in the market – and now, the opposite is happening in many areas.”

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Kiremko commissions fry lines with the newly developed ‘Kiremko remote service’

Processing equipment manufacturer Kiremko were awarded the contracts to supply landmark state-of-the art fry lines in North America and North Africa. The company says these totally up-to-date, complete lines were largely constructed in The Netherlands and shipped to their destinations just as the COVID-19 restrictions were being applied. This presented Kiremko with a real opportunity to employ a new way of installing fry lines that had been under development for some time internally and in collaboration with their associates, called the Kiremko Remote Service and uses state-of-the-art “Augmented Reality”.

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AHDB: Dealing with aphids in Britain during 2020 and beyond

The management of aphids, particularly those that transmit viruses, has been a focus of concern for potato growers in recent seasons in Britain. AHDB (virtually) sat down with Crop Protection Senior Scientist for Pests, Dr Sue Cowgill, to talk monitoring, testing and research projects that will help growers manage the issue.

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Croatia sees major increase in potato imports, especially seed potatoes

During the first three months of 2020 Croatia imported 16,064 tonnes of potato seed, including new and mature table potatoes – all of which worth €8.03 million, almost half of the total value of potatoes imported in 2019, according to an analysis by the Smarter Consultancy company. Smarter Consultancy believes that it is necessary to consolidate farmland devoted to potato cultivation in Croatia, and at the same time increase yields per hectare – and furthermore give the potato crop the status of a special vegetable so as to create possibilities to apply for EU funding.

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It was said: Quotes worth remembering

Dear Potato News Today readers, please find here a few quotations that we selected from news items published on our site the past couple of weeks. We believe these reflect the current state of affairs in different sectors of the potato industry, and in several countries around the world.

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Talking Biotech: Where did GMOs come from? Former Monsanto scientist Robb Fraley recounts the advent of biotech crops

On the five-year anniversary of the Talking Biotech podcast published on the Genetic Literacy Project (GLP) website, host and plant geneticist Kevin Folta sits down with former Monsanto chief technology officer Robb Fraley. He recalls the race to transform plants and his work as a leader at Monsanto. While the company did important work to advance crop biotechnology, Fraley says, Monsanto made little effort to explain genetic engineering to food companies, the media and consumers and was thus unprepared for the backlash against GMOs in the 1990s.

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McCain brings ‘Potato Smiles’ back to Australia – as ‘Emotibites’

Shoppers are racing to get their hands on McCain’s classic Potato Smiles after the nostalgic snack disappeared from Australian supermarket shelves five years ago. Thousands of Australians have been rallying for years to bring back the iconic childhood treat after it was discontinued in 2015. ‘For many Australians, these are something they’ve looked back on fondly as part of their childhood. After years of build-up, it’s heartening to know that they’re meeting expectations,’ McCain Foods marketing manager ANZ Karen Ramsay said.

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IFA: Retail potato demand in Ireland remains buoyant; rain across Europe welcomed

The Irish Farmers Association (IFA) says in its latest potato report that retail demand in Ireland remains buoyant, and as restrictions ease further on June 29th and restaurants can re-open, growers are reminded to supply the peeling market where possible. Once again rainfall across Europe in the past week was welcomed. Not everyone has had rain and some areas including Northern Holland and parts of Eastern England remain very dry.

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Canadian crop report: Dry growing conditions coast to coast

United Potato Growers of Canada (UPGC) has released its latest crop update. Kevin MacIsaac, General Manager, reports that the Canadian potato crop is in the “growing stage”. There is a recurring theme from coast to coast: It is dry – but the crop is not suffering yet because it is in the early stages of development, but does need rain soon. UPGC provides a snapshot of the crop status and market across Canada

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Russia’s Irrico Group to supply potatoes for Lay’s chips

Potato System reports that the Irrico Group of Companies in Russia signed a contract with Frito Lay Manufacturing LLC to supply Stavropol-grown potatoes for the production of the Lay’s brand chips. The Irrico group is involved in intensive crop and vegetable farming on 29,000 hectares of crop land in the Stavropol Territory in the south of Russia. This year, Irrico plans to harvest more than 50,000 tons of potatoes.

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5th generation Oregon farmers launch ‘SpudLove’ chips

While the headlines are full of companies calling it quits over these historic setbacks, one Oregon farm is going big with a new product launch called SpudLove potato chips, according to the Oregon Family Farm Association. They report that SpudLove Snacks is making its newest potato chips with spuds grown at Threemile Canyon Farms in Boardman, harvested by fifth-generation potato farmers. In touting its five flavors of 100 percent organic chips.

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Desiccation research: Reaching skinset depends on a range of factors

You cannot use what’s happening above ground as a guide to what’s happening below, according to new research into alternative desiccants. A key finding from research work in the UK is that the rate of foliage desiccation does not correlate well with that of skinset, the key to harvesting without damage. The discovery was among the key findings of a project examining the best alternative desiccants to diquat carried out by NIAB CUF on behalf of AHDB in the UK. The research focused on the ‘hard to stop’ situations such as indeterminate varieties and seed crops.

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Biotron Lab celebrates storied history as it ends 50-year run as a research center

Since the first research project was initiated there in May 1967, the Biotron Laboratory on the west end of the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus has been one of a few research centers in the world capable of simulating a range of environmental variables with precision and control for studying plants, animals, materials and materials. The Wisconsin Seed Potato Certification Tissue Culture Laboratory has conducted its research at Biotron.

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Woman killed in industrial accident at Lamb Weston plant in Idaho

A Lamb Weston employee died in an industrial accident at the company’s Twin Falls facility Wednesday morning, according to a news release by Associated Press. Sadia Kawa, 48, of Twin Falls, died in the accident, Twin Falls County Coroner Gene Turley said. Lamb Weston makes frozen potato products in Twin Falls that are sold to restaurants and retailers throughout the United States.

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Lukie Pieterse, Editor and Publisher

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