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.
Dear PNT readers, find below a selection of potato related quotes we picked from news items published on Potato News Today the past couple of weeks. We believe these to be worth taking note of, and remembering…
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.
According to a report by Anthony Speight, Analyst at AHDB, the month of May has been relatively static across the industry in general. The initial lockdown caused a divergence in demand between the retail and food service sector. Speight writes in his report: “We have since seen their respective demand stabilise momentarily and we are at a juxtaposition that relies on further uplifting of lockdown restrictions for demand to increase.”Throughout May we had increased reports of chip shops reopening. Outlets that featured on take out apps, mostly in built up urban areas have reported to have a successful customer base.
Jordan Okumura of AndNowUKnow reports that “the awesome potato has been a hotter category than usual as of late, with demand spiking through the spring months. As we get our foothold in June, the potato market is finding some stability for Eagle Eye Produce, though the consumer’s passion for the produce item is staying strong.”
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.
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.
Signs are showing that frozen fry demand is improving quicker than the industry had anticipated, according to a May 27 report by North American Potato Market News. Restaurant chain sales in the U.S. improved five consecutive weeks from early April to mid-May, although were still down 21%, year-over-year in the week ending May 17.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
According to a report published earlier this week by the Washington Ag Network, the National Potato Council and state grower organizations wrote Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue last week to talk about potatoes that have nowhere to go for processing. According to the Council, more than 1.5 billion pounds of fresh potatoes for processing and potato products are trapped in the supply chain with no likely customers.
As Alberta’s potato industry in Canada reels from the devastation of COVID-19, one industry spokesperson says he is worried the mental health and wellness of farmers could be at stake. Terence Hochstein, executive director for the Potato Growers of Alberta (PGA), said recent blows to potato farms have stoked his concerns for farm families. Hochstein said the industry is sitting on some 100,000 tons of potatoes right now that need to be processed by September.
Secretariat of Europatat: Since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, European potato traders have been working around the clock not only to keep the potato supply chain running but also to help combat Covid-19. In this article you can take a look at those Europatat’s members actions that have been carried out all around Europe in the past weeks. We would like to extend a particularly warm thank you to all of you. You are our #foodheroes!
Plant biotechnology is poised to drastically improve how we consume medication. Using the modern tools of genetic engineering, researchers are developing plant-based drugs that are cheaper, easier to take and even more effective than their existing counterparts. Tautvydas Shuipys reports for the Genetic Literacy Project. A Canada-based company has announced that using this same technology, they have produced a candidate vaccine for COVID-19 in twenty days.
Potatoes New Zealand is asking the New Zealand government to give urgent consideration to imposing short-term measures limiting the importation into New Zealand of heavily discounted frozen potato chips to avoid a food security threat. This follows the Australian Potato Industry’s move to do the same. Globally, the disruption of supply chains, and particularly sales to hospitality, by virtue of COVID-19 restrictions has led to the complete collapse of potato prices in major production centres, in particular the European Union (EU).
Australian potato farmers outraged as $1billion COVID-19 cash splash is given to European colleagues
Australian potato farmers are outraged to discover a $1billion COVID-19 assistance package given to European growers could result in a flood of French fries into the market from overseas. An industry representative body for vegetable and potato growers, AUSVEG, said an influx of about 2.6million tonnes of excess potatoes into Australia would lock farmers out of the fast-food industry. The two biggest potato processors, McCain Food and Simplot, have been working with AUSVEG alongside other companies to address the issue
Eye on Potatoes Podcast: In discussion with Congressman Mike Simpson and NPC CEO Kam Quarles about COVID-19
Congressman Mike Simpson and the entire Idaho Congressional delegation are championing policy solutions to support the nation’s struggling potato industry. National Potato Council CEO Kam Quarles calls in from D.C. to discuss the $300 million in additional potato purchases the industry needs to help bring supply and demand back into balance.
Caribou County farmer Jason Stoddard is one of many Eastern Idaho seed potato growers who have been stuck with lots of spuds that will never be planted due to the COVID-19 crisis. Commercial potato farmers throughout the state have canceled seed orders, having had their contracts with processors scaled back due to lost food service demand amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The coronavirus has disrupted the global potato market like no other single event before it, but there are some signs things settling at least a new normal, according to Cedric Porter, editor of World Potato Markets. World Potato Markets has just published its annual review of production, prices and trade. Potato News Today readers can enjoy a special purchase rate.
Caribou County farmer Jason Stoddard is one of many Eastern Idaho seed potato growers who have been stuck with lots of spuds that will never be planted due to the COVID-19 crisis. Commercial potato farmers throughout the state have canceled seed orders, having had their contracts with processors scaled back due to lost food service demand amid the pandemic. Industry officials estimate roughly 40 million pounds of Idaho seed potatoes have gone unsold or been returned to seed growers.
With prices and supply facing uncertainty due to lockdowns and high, panicked demand especially in the APAC region after the COVID-19 outbreak, it might be expected that potatoes would be able to benefit somewhat here – but in reality, there have been multiple factors hindering this opportunity, according to International Potato Center Asia Regional Director Samarendu Mohanty.
The world-wide coronavirus pandemic is impacting U.S. potato exports, as seen in the figures for March, according to Potatoes USA. In a press release issued today, the organization says U.S. exports of frozen potato products were off 12% in March 2020 compared to 2019. Exports of dehydrated potatoes were off 16%, and fresh were off 13% from the previous year.