If the food pyramid had a “comfort” category, potatoes would certainly be pictured. “It is a vegetable item that is not as highly perishable as other fresh produce items, and potatoes are familiar. There’s no learning what to do with them,” says Angela Santiago, CEO and Co-Founder of The Little Potato Company. As we discuss the pivot the COVID-19 pandemic demanded of our industry, and of her team specifically, Angela walks me through the impacts of this temporary normal.
The United States will purchase 3 billion dollars worth of dairy, meat and produce from farmers and ranchers starting early next week, President Donald Trump announced in a Tweet on Saturday. “The USA will be purchasing, from our farmers, ranchers & specialty crop growers, 3 billion dollars worth of dairy, meat & produce for food lines & kitchens,” Pres Trump said in a tweet Saturday afternoon. The U.S. president noted that the government purchase is part of the USDA “Farmers to Family Food Box,” calling it “great news for all.”
The good news in Colorado’s fresh potato industry is that retail demand has been very strong this spring, because of, or in spite of, the Coronavirus pandemic. James Ehrlich, the executive director of the Colorado Potato Administrative Committee, said movement from Colorado potato storages is so strong that those shippers may finish distributing the 2019 crop by July. “Prices are strong,” he added in an April 29 interview. The discouraging coronavirus news for the Colorado — and national potato industry — is the decline in foodservice sales.
Last week saw the release of our end-March stocks estimates. Fresh bags and chipping stocks that remain in grower ownership at the end of March were estimated at 157.3Kt. This shows a 49% drawdown from end of January, suggesting 151.6Kt moved from grower ownership in that time. By the end of March approximately 79% of fresh bag and chipping material had left grower ownership which is 2% lower than the 5-year average. However the question faced is; what will happen to the remaining 21% if the fish and chip trade remains subdued?
IRI data for the third quarter of the marketing year (January – March 2020) showed growth in both dollars and volume for total potato sales at retail, Potatoes USA says. Total dollar sales increased by 15.5% and volume increased by 15%. Every category increased in both dollar and volume sales except for deli-prepared sides. Fresh potato sales also increased in dollar and volume sales by 19.2% and 15%, respectively, with all potato types increasing in volume sales.
The following in-depth analysis of the British potato processing market was prepared by Alex Cook at AHDB Potatoes. Over the course of the lockdown so far, processors have reportedly operated a lower output with reduced labour in accordance with social distancing guidelines. Many have opted to close certain product lines to reduce workloads. A continued loss in foodservice through to the end of the season is expected.
The P.E.I. government says its $4.7 million in funding for the potato industry will result in 40 million kilograms of Island potatoes being processed, rather than potentially going into landfill. But one of the principal players in the three-way arrangement, processor Cavendish Farms, says it is still reviewing government announcements at this time. General manager of the PEI Poato Board, Greg Donald said the arrangement would benefit the entire industry — not just growers selling to Cavendish Farms, who will now have a market for these potatoes.
AHDB released plans for an extended consumer marketing campaign, and a portal to help put the growers and buyers of potatoes in touch. AHDB says it is increasing consumer marketing activity for the year ahead, with a lockdown boost through social media, advertising, promotion via catch-up TV and activity within retail outlets. A trade portal will be launched this week where wholesale potato buyers and merchants can post requirements for potatoes, and growers can post available stocks.
Here’s why shoppers in the US are currently having difficulties finding frozen french fries: Potatoes USA CEO Blair Richardson joins Yahoo Finance’s Seana Smith to discuss how the coronavirus is impacting the potato supply chain and what that means for farmers.
According to a Capital Press report, the Idaho Potato Commission is considering advertising on major online sales platforms such as Amazon, Walmart and Kroger Co. websites. “If we ran a program starting in May through August, it could cost a little over $100,000,” Commission CEO Frank Muir said. Costs would be covered by recently lower spending on travel and on certain promotion and incentive programs. He has not yet made a formal recommendation to commissioners.
Support for British potato growers: Tesco commits to now sell chipping varieties as part of its ‘Perfectly Imperfect’ range
More potatoes will hit shelves from this week to meet soaring demand. UK potato growers who have been left with surplus stock because of the closure of restaurants and fast food outlets are being given a helping hand by Tesco. The closure of restaurants, pubs and many fast food outlets has left a major surplus of particular varieties that are made into chips, which potato growers cannot now easily sell on. Now Tesco has teamed up with potato supplier Branston to take these potatoes that were previously destined for the catering trade.
“COVID-19 has shaken the whole world impacting society and the global economy. The frozen potato products value chain has been confronted with a true drama, says the President and CEO of World Potato Congress Inc, Romain Cools. The socio-economic problems created by this in Western Europe and parts of North America will be minor compared to the likelihood of food insecurity and famine in many developing countries, Mr Cools says. The major suppliers of the global staples of rice and cereals, China, Vietnam and Russia, have stopped exports. Many poorer parts of the world that depend on imports of rice and cereals, will be confronted with food shortages and rising prices.
In this video, published May 1 by AHDB Potatoes in the UK, strategy director Rob Clayton provides some context around the March stocks estimate (released May 1). Dr Clayton says that this estimate is an important ‘line in the sand’ which allows AHDB to calculate how much potatoes are left in growers’ stores, which in turn will help AHDB to strategize and plan different marketing scenarios for the rest of the spring and into the summer.
The Packer’s Tom Karst visited April 24 with Sabrina Bosiacki, agriculture industry manager for the Houston Food Bank, about the promise of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Buy Fresh Program. “The amount of need that we’re seeing right now is unprecedented,” Bosiacki said. “Just two days ago (April 22), we distributed 1.3 million pounds of food in a single day, which far surpasses our old record that we had attained post-hurricane Harvey; so we’ve never seen anything like this before since we became a food bank in the 80s.”
New York’s farmers who can no longer sell crops to Big Apple restaurants are turning to a new business model: Boxing up produce for the growing hordes of home cooks, Jennifer Gould Keil reports in New York Post. Zaid Kurdieh, an organic farmer in Norwich, NY, used to rely on sales to top chefs and restaurateurs like Jean-Georges Vongerichten, Thomas Keller and Danny Meyer for 60 percent of his revenues. But with Gotham’s dining scene shuttered, Kurdieh has pivoted from packing up “hundreds of pounds” of produce for restaurateurs to curating 12- to 24-pound food boxes for home chefs.
Retail purchases of all potato products were 41 percent higher in March 2020 compared to the same time frame last year, according to figures released by industry marketing body, Potatoes USA. “Consumers give potatoes high marks for being a satisfying food that everyone enjoys and for being a great value,” said Blair Richardson, CEO of Potatoes USA. Fresh potatoes have experienced a 42 percent volume increase since the beginning of March and a 67 percent year-over-year dollar sales increase as of the end of the first week of April.
Indian airline IndiGo has successfully operated the country’s first cargo-on-seats flight, sending fresh food from India to fill some supermarket shelves in the UAE. The flight flew from Kochi to Abu Dhabi over the weekend, transporting fruit, vegetables and other supplies to supermarkets in the UAE, particularly stores that “cater for the large Indian expat community” in the Emirates, according to IndiGo’s CCO Willy Boulter.
The National Potato Council in the US issued the following statement welcoming U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue’s announcement of the $19 billion Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP). Various elements will require improvements or additional resources in order to provide relief for the potato industry.
Total acres of Idaho’s iconic potato crop could decrease significantly this year as a result of the coronavirus outbreak. Although there was a rush on potatoes at grocery stores early on, that has abated somewhat and has not been enough to make up for a major decrease in sales of potatoes and potato products through foodservice channels, according to industry leaders. Some french fry processors in Idaho have cut contracted acreage by 10-20 percent this year, according to North American Potato Market News Publisher, Bruce Huffaker.
The head of the National Potato Council in the US says it’s yet to be determined how much money the industry needs to be made whole in the wake of the coronavirus shutdowns, Capital Press reports. However, “what we have identified is that there is between $750 million and $1.5 billion of products that are clogged up in the potato pipeline right now,” council CEO Kam Quarles said.