COVID-19 News

Coronavirus collapsed America’s food system, but made for “a pivotal and magical moment in local food”

Sheldon Rockey weaves through pallets of potatoes in a long-retired high school gym as a small team of workers wash and package his trademarked fingerlings. “We just weren’t prepared for this, so there will be some livestock that will eat some gourmet potatoes this year,” says Rockey, who saw his innovative and competitive strategy of selling tiny high-end potatoes to a wholesaler supplying cruise ships and restaurants collapse in mid-March as the pandemic settled in the U.S.

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Total Canadian potato storage holdings 12.5% above 3 year average; some chipping potatoes may need to be imported

Kevin MacIsaac, General manager of the United Potato Growers of Canada, reported earlier today that the current Canadian potato storage holdings figures were released by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada on June 1. According to Kevin, “good demand for table potatoes has lowered fresh supplies 15% below the 3-yr. average. Processing stocks are up 14.4%. Seed growers are also in a difficult spot with seed left.”

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Outlook brighter for Maine’s potato industry as coronavirus restrictions relax

After months of struggles due to the shutdown of the food service industry during the coronavirus pandemic, the Aroostook County potato industry in Maine is seeing increased sales as states begin to reopen their economies. Rather than going unsold, many more potatoes from the 2019 crop will end up on plates and trays across the country as restaurant-ready items such as french fries and mashed potatoes. Still, many of the traditional venues for Maine potatoes remain closed off.

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Idaho potato farmers stuck with mountains of spuds after COVID-19 decimated demand

While Idaho will continue to be known for its famous potatoes, Gem State farmers are experiencing a major gut-punch after the coronavirus pandemic mashed the demand for potatoes, especially the ones meant for french fries. “With an excess of taters that may go to waste, farmers are scrambling to figure out what to do with the 2020 crop of spuds. After the COVID-19 pandemic forced restaurants across the country to close down there is an overwhelming number of potatoes that could go to waste, according to the Idaho Potato Commission.

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Opinion: How you can grieve the loss of a loved one to COVID-19 when you couldn’t say goodbye

Dear Potato News Today readers: The following heartfelt and deeply moving and very human story, written by Jeboah Miranda, is not in itself directly related to the global potato industry at all, but it is still for sure related to the harsh reality of the times we all live in today – amidst the chaos caused by thecurrent global pandemic brought about by the COVID-19. virus Somewhat what the author of the the “age-old” pop song tries to communicate, when saying: “How small we are, how little we know… ]

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Could the global loss of food service pressure the UK’s potato processing market?

The release of the end-March stocks estimate did enable the UK domestic market to encapsulate the partial impact that the coronavirus is having on the potato industry. However, it does not allow us to paint the whole picture as we finish this marketing year and head into next season. Anthony Speight, Analyst at AHDB, wrote the following report that we gladly re-publish here.

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A lesson in compassion: In Georgia, women potato farmers show solidarity and empathy amid COVID-19

In early May, women from the village of Maradisi, in southeast Georgia in the Caucasus, gained wide renown. Naira Paksadze’s story went viral on social networks and in the media. Together with other active women, Naira hoed her neighbour’s potato field in order to save the family’s potato harvest. At the time, every member of the family was being treated for COVID-19 in hospital, while weeds were growing wild throughout their potato field – their only source of income.

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Canadian potatoes are spoiling due to slow federal government response, says grower association

In a news release issued by Potatoes New Brunswick, the association says delays rolling out a COVID-19-related support program for Canadian agriculture may spell doom for potato farmers. While the government delays, millions of pounds of potatoes are sitting in storage and starting to rot, Potatoes New Brunswick says in its release. Early last month, the government announced a $50-million Surplus Food Purchase Program intended to alleviate the impact of COVID-19 on farmers.

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Belgapom Chief: ‘A new lockdown could be devastating for the industry!’

In an exclusive interview with Dan Orehov, Edtor of Potato Business, Secretary General of Belgapom, Romain Cools, talked about the current situation of potato consumption and trade in Belgium, on the background of the pandemic. Orehov and Cools also discussed the future of the Belgian potato, from farm to fork and the impact that foodservice industry closure has had so far on the overall potato business.

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The Packer: How the US produce industry responds to the pandemic

With the Farmers to Families Food Box Program underway across the country, companies are busy packing and sending fresh produce to food banks. Chris Koger of The Packer provides a round-up of recent COVID-19-related news. As far as potatoes are concerned, Koger writes that Potatoes USA is connecting with industry members through a new video series, Keeping It Current, to explain what the organization has been doing during the pandemic.

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The global impact of coronavirus on potato production: Examples and lessons learnt

One country that has routinely been in the news for their impressive handling of the outbreak is South Korea. In Canada, the closure of the hospitality sector in light of the coronavirus caused a significant threat to potato growers. The potato growers in the USA too have faced significant challenges with accessing markets and oversupply. This issue of excess potatoes is impacting supply chains across Europe too. Belgium is famous the world over for its fries and UNESCO list them as a Cultural Treasure. Given the closure of restaurants, including the ubiquitous fish n’ chip shops of most high streets, potato growers across the UK are struggling to sell their crop.

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The human face of a tragic time: She was a 102-year-old potato farmer born during the Spanish flu pandemic. She was killed by COVID-19

Frances Jordan Banks, a 102-year-old World War II Army nurse who served in India and spent many years on an Aroostook County potato farm, lived a life that was book-ended by pandemics. The Cape Elizabeth native was born during the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic, and died a few days ago of COVID-19. Banks was a nurse, but her family also knew her as a teacher “of all things” and relied on her guidance and wisdom. .

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‘Potato Days Russia 2020’ carried over to be hosted in 2021

Potato System reports that DLG RUS postponed the International Potato Field Day “Potato Days Russia-2020”, which was to be held from July 30 to July 31 in New Kaplino in the Bryansk Region. Thus, “Potato Days Russia” is now scheduled to take place on 29-30 July 2021 in the ‘potato capital’ of Russia – the Bryansk region.

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Shoppers urged to seek out British potatoes to ease farmers’ lockdown surplus

Consumers have been urged to seek out British potatoes on supermarket shelves to help East Anglia’s growers shift the huge surplus generated by the loss of lockdown demand from chip shops and restaurants. The coronavirus pandemic left thousands of tonnes of potatoes stranded in stores as the food service sector closed down. Some have been redirected to retailers, others have been sold directly from farm shops and delivery schemes, or sold off as animal feed.

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High demand puts Wisconsin spuds in a good spot

Wisconsin spuds had a shaky start to the COVID-19 pandemic, but high consumer demand has put potatoes in a good spot, says the Wisconsin Potato and Vegetable Growers Association. “The retail demand increased tremendously with the advent of COVID,” Executive Director Tamas Houlihan said. “Grocery store sales were through the roof, people were stocking up, and they weren’t buying the usual 5 and 10 pound bags. They were buying as much as they could.”

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McCain Foods delays US potato plant project

According to a report by Pan Demetrakakes, Senior Editor at Food Processing, McCain Foods is delaying the expansion of its potato processing facility in Othello, Wash., due to the coronavirus pandemic. Demetrakakes says the project at the facility, about 100 miles southwest of Spokane, would have added another 170,000 square feet to the plant for a new processing line for battered and conventional French fries.

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US potato market shows clear pandemic effect

It was common for a fruit or vegetable to be having a good winter in terms of volume, pricing and demand, and then in mid-March, when lockdowns began, the item would see a sudden demand surge then crash. Greg Johnson, Director of Media Development for Blue Book Services reports. Johnson writes that no produce item shows this pandemic effect as clearly as potatoes, whose average F.O.B. price has been about half of what it was in early March, as demand has been significantly damaged by restaurant, school and institution closures.

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Belgium : Flemish potato growers foresee 10 mil Euro as support to cover part of their income losses for ‘free (non contracted) potatoes’

Today the Flemish Minister for agriculture, Mrs. Hilde Crevits, and the Flemish government have decided to foresee € 10 million from the Flemish corona emergency fund to support potato farmers who have suffered important income losses with their “free potatoes” (potatoes which have not been contracted). Farmers with contracts have received confirmation that the processing industry will respect and execute contracts (or agree on an alternative solution).

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Yara takes action to avert hunger crisis in the wake of Covid 19

In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, the number of people facing acute hunger could double. Supported by the United Nations, the Norwegian government and African institutions, Yara is taking action and committing $25 million to provide food for more than one million people in Southern and Eastern Africa. Yara is launching Action Africa: Thriving Farms, Thriving Future – an initiative with the goal to mobilize support for 250,000 smallholder farmers in seven African countries to secure food production and improved food security. The initiative includes advocacy and partnerships, farmer connectivity and digital solutions, and operational support including 40,000 metric tons of high quality fertilizers

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On June 2, Washington State potato growers will reach mission to get 1 million pounds of potatoes to those in need

The Washington State Commission says on its Facebook channel that it is excited to announce that the Washington State potato growers will reach their mission to get 1 million pounds of potatoes that were scheduled to be processed to those in need on June 2 at 11am. The Washington State Potato Commission thank all those who have helped out along this journey to 1 MILLION POUNDS. The volunteers, those who donated there space, their time, the donations to the GoFundMe account, the food banks that made the trips to pick up pallets of potatoes.

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Lukie Pieterse, Editor and Publisher

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