The coronavirus pandemic has left Washington’s farmers with at least a billion pounds of potatoes they can’t sell, a new crop growing without any buyers and millions of dollars in debt they have no way to pay. As it turns out, getting rid of a billion pounds of spuds isn’t easy — or cheap. It usually takes Washington farmers a year to sell that quantity to grocery stores. “Now we’re trying to move it in a couple months,” Chris Voigt, executive director of the Washington State Potato Commission said.
For farmer Mike Pink, spring is supposed to be a time of hope, when he can survey a green field of young potato plants and anticipate the bounty to be pulled from the sandy soils of the Columbia Basin. Hal Bernton, Associated Press reports. This year, this is a season when dreams die. Due to an epic potato glut that imploded his market, he has decided to do what was once unthinkable — destroy part of his crop rather than sink more dollars into cultivation. By early April, potato processors had decided to reduce their contracted acreage by about 20 percent, according to Chris Voigt of the Washington Potato Commission.
French fry sales are down across North America as tens of thousands of restaurants have closed during COVID-19, which means the potato industry has to adapt quickly. Companies that turn potatoes into french fries, wedges and hash browns are slowing down production, because there isn’t enough space to store all the frozen product, reports Alexis Kienlen in Alberta Farmer. While french fry sales have stagnated, potato chip sales are up. United Potato Growers of Canada is trying to figure out the amount of potatoes in storage so it can forecast how much production will be needed this coming year.
COVID-19 is driving demand for fresh potatoes in supermarkets and grocery stores across the globe as people stock up on inexpensive food. Fresh potato has become a favorite during the lockdown, along with rice, wheat flour, bread and pasta, the International Potato Center (CIP) says in a recently published report. The world should be prepared to guarantee availability of food at affordable prices over the next 12?18 months, or even longer, to effectively overcome the effects of the pandemic. Potato has a key role to play in ensuring global food security.
Manitoba potato growers are feeling the impact of COVID-19, Cory Knutt of PembinaValley Online reports. According to Dan Sawatzky, Manager of Keystone Potato Producers Association: “Acreage will be down this year,” he said. “An estimate might be in that 67,000 range, which is similar to a couple years back. We are seeing demand for fries diminishing, certainly with the COVID-19 virus.
There will be fewer acres of Russets going into the ground in northern states this spring as processors cut back on their contracted acres in response to a reduction in sales of frozen french fries and other potato products, reports Ann Bailey in the Grand Forks Herald. Contracted potato acres in the western European countries of Belgium, the Netherlands, France, Germany and the United Kingdom could be reduced by nearly 8%.
Potato processor Cavendish Farms hasn’t laid off any staff yet because of the coronavirus (COVID-19), but a spokeswoman for the company says short-term layoffs are expected. Keith said Cavendish Farms has reduced production with no layoffs so far but expects there will be some in the short term.
Belgium’s potato industry is asking for the goverment to chip in and help it survive the coronavirus lockdown. While the country is well-known for its fries, the industry has few clients at home. On average, 90 per cent of potatoes are exported. But with travel bans and restaurants closed around the world, the food supply chain has been disrupted.
UK-based farm producer of hand-cooked crisps delivers to frontline hospital staff, provides national free delivery service
Artisan crisp maker, Fairfields Farm, made a delivery of 480 bags of its hand-cooked crisps to Colchester Hospital this week, giving doctors a nurses a welcome treat as they tackle Covid-19 on the front line. The business, which produces potatoes and hand-cooked crisps on its farm in Colchester, wanted to do something to thank the team at its local hospital[Read More…]
McCain Foods announced a donation of up to 20 million pounds of potato products to support Food Banks Canada, Second Harvest and other local food security organizations across Canada,
Idahoan Foods reports demand for its products is booming. It says orders were up 250% in March alone and the company anticipates increases in sustained demand going forward. The company is the leading provider of mashed potatoes in the United States. The Department of Homeland Security recognizes the company as a critical agricultural industry. Idahoan Foods President and CEO Drew Facer said the company is dedicated to ensuring the safety of its 780 employees while continuing production.
The situation changes every day, but potato acres in Canada and the United States could take a dramatic hit in 2020. Potato production may drop by 25 to 30 percent because of closed restaurants, a sharp decline in french fry consumption and the economic fallout from COVID-19, writes Robert Arnason in the Western Producer. The potential acreage cuts are for process potatoes, which are used to make french fries and other frozen potato products. Process potatoes represent the bulk of potato acres in Canada and the United States.
The “Nederlandse Aardappel Organisatie” (NAO) expressed their support for their members who are dealing with unforeseen challenges as a result of the COVID-19 crisis. On their website NAO acknowledges there are companies that cannot cope with the work, for example in the table potato market, while in the catering market, demand has completely disappeared and companies are therefore partly stalling. As much as 90% of the demand in the processing industry has suddenly disappeared.
The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has dealt a blow to a particularly Belgian market, as the country begins to see declining sales of the humble fries, reports Jules Johnston in The Brussels Times. “Our fries production is partly at a standstill. We will continue to make the other potato specialities, but at a slower pace because our employees have to work at a safe distance from each other,” said Philippe Debruyne, manager of potato processing company Aviko.
Lamb Weston Holdings, Inc. announced its fiscal third quarter 2020 results. “Our results in the third quarter were mixed,” said Tom Werner, President and CEO. “At this time, despite only two months remaining in our fiscal fourth quarter, we are unable to reasonably forecast frozen potato product demand because of the pandemic’s unpredictable near-term effect on restaurant traffic in North America and our key international markets.”
The downturn in consumption has had an immediate impact on french fry processors in Canada and could alter how many potatoes are seeded in 2020. It’s nearly impossible to say when french fry demand will return to normal because it’s difficult to predict when restaurants will re-open and consumers will have the disposable income to dine out. Potato processors and growers across Canada will have to factor COVID-19 into production contracts for 2020.
The situation in mainland Europe closely echoes current trends in the UK. Fresh retail sales have been reported to have increased significantly and potatoes are moving from countries such as France and Germany to help meet demand in eastern Europe. Meanwhile the widespread closure of restaurants and other food service outlets has meant that demand for processed potato products has[Read More…]
In this week’s Potato Weekly report, issued yesterday by AHDB Potatoes, analyst Adian Wright writes that trade in the chipping market is at almost a complete standstill as most chip shops remain closed across the UK. Meanwhile, another week of good weather nationwide has meant that for many, planting of potatoes has continued at pace, but the uncertainty of how long certain markets may be unavailable is hanging over some growers who are trying to make planting decisions.
Chips are down for Dutch potato sector as demand for french fries plummets amid foodservice closures
As restaurants, snack bars and fast food outlets remain on lockdown to contain the ongoing coronavirus outbreak, the Dutch out-of-home and foodservice markets have seen a sudden and steep decline in demand for fries, FoodingredientsFirst reports. Industry executives tell FoodIngredientsFirst how potato growers are facing huge losses and a dire forecast of a one million metric ton surplus of french fries.
Potato processing facilities shutting down in Western Europe; calls multiply for reduced planted area
In the European potato sector, the direct consequences of the Covid-19 crisis are stark and multiple, according to a report by FIWAP (Filiere wallonne de la pomme de terre), is the potato industry association of the potato growers in Wallonia, Belgium. several potato processing units are shutting down (totally or partially) in Western Europe, particularly those that supply fast-food restaurants and french fry outlets. Throughout the European northwest, calls for a reduction in the 2020 areas multiply.
Cavendish Farms to contract potato growers on Prince Edward Island: ‘Sell to someone else, if you can’
CBC reports this morning that potato processor Cavendish Farms has advised the Prince Edward Island (P.E.I.) potato producers under contract to supply the company with spuds to “sell to other markets if they can,” as the company deals with a sharp drop in demand for its product in the wake of COVID-19-related restaurant closures. The company is currently in negotiations with Island potato growers through the P.E.I. Potato Board on a new contract.
For leading potato chip maker Frito-Lay, to be innovative at scale requires artificial intelligence. The company’s culinary experts and scientists make decisions informed by a custom-built AI engine that monitors social media, retail sales, restaurant trends, and news and search analysis, according to a report from journalist Katie Sehl and published by Fortune. Michael Lindsey, chief transformation and strategy officer for Frito-Lay North America presented on this at MIT Technology Review’s EmTech Digital conference.
Potato processor Lamb Weston said that grocery store sales of frozen french fries and processed potatoes “are up significantly” as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak and the “stay-at-home” orders issued by a number of state governors across the U.S. Sean Connolly, president and CEO of Conagra foods — the former parent company of Lamb Weston — said that all of the company’s North American facilities “are open and running at high levels of utilization.”
Potato growers are facing huge losses now restaurants and snack bars have closed their doors and compensation plans have not yet materialised, the NRC reports. Now that the majority of restaurants, bars and fast food outlets worldwide have closed their doors to contain coronavirus, growers are looking at a stock of 1.5 million tons of potatoes, two thirds of which cannot be sold.
Potato chips have come a long way since the first mass produced varieties in the early 20th? century. Since then, the product has taken on many different forms to cater to evolving consumer needs, writes Thiago Roriz, TNA Solution’s General Manager for Latin America, in an article published by BakeryandSnacks.com. But it’s not just new flavours; potato chips have been gaining ground on the health front too.