Potato harvest progress 

Trevor Downey, Melancthon, Ontario surveys his potato harvest going into storage. Photo by Glenn Lowson.
Six-row windrower at work in PEI’s potato harvest. Photo courtesy of United Potato Growers of Canada.
John Vossebelt’s 2017 harvest at Chin Coulee Farms Inc, Coaldale. Photo by Adrian Moen.

The United Potato Growers of Canada, helmed by Kevin MacIsaac, shares a province-by-province analysis of harvest conditions. Here’s an up-to-date report as of October 12. 

Prince Edward Island

Overall, harvest estimate is 60-65 per cent complete. If excellent harvest conditions continue, the crop will be in storage by end of October. It is still hard to get a handle on projected yield. It will be variable as moisture was limiting in many areas. Eastern PEI will have at least average yields.  However, western PEI anticipates 20 per cent less in yields, necessitating out-of-province imports to satisfy processing needs. 

Movement, year-to-date, is close to PEI’s three-year average. Movement to the Caribbean markets is less than a year ago due to recent hurricanes in Puerto Rico and surrounding islands. However, any lost volume in that market will be offset by production losses and also stronger demand in processing markets. Processors in the east seem to be actively securing opportunities for open potatoes to make up for shortfalls. 

Fresh prices this year continue to track prices from a year ago.

New Brunswick

The harvest in New Brunswick is 80 per cent complete with good harvesting conditions. However, the Edmunston weather station recorded minus 4.5°C on October 12, the second time in a month that low temperatures have threatened the crop in the Grand Falls growing region. Given the very dry soil conditions, industry insiders wonder if these harvesting conditions might turn into a concern later in the storage season. Yields have been excellent, just under last year’s harvest yields.  Overall, the supply seems tight with any overages being sought out by processors. 

In neighbouring Maine, harvest is almost wound up. With more acres under irrigation, yields are high with good quality. Some growers appear to have overages available.

Quebec

In Quebec, harvest has progressed well with 70 per cent done.  Hot temperatures had stalled harvest and storage earlier in the month, but growers are now able to proceed. Considering that some areas went 5.5 weeks without rain, the yield has been better than expected and should be within the five-year average.  The size profile and quality is good for the majority of regions, with some growers reporting best quality ever, especially for russets. 

The processing industry, led by St. Arnaud’s expanded packing line, will require additional potatoes to export more finished product.  Fresh packers report steady to strong business with good pricing similar to last year. This reflects the fact that the eastern Canadian market seems to be in balance this year. 

Ontario

While Ontario experienced the wettest summer on record, for those fields without drown-outs, Mother Nature also brought high yields. In other weather extremes, two weeks of mid to high 30°C temperatures in September halted harvest. The record-breaking heat wave warmed the soil creating tuber temperatures 10 degrees warmer than they should be. Growers held off harvesting and next came a cold spell with high winds. Harvest is running behind with about 70 per cent now complete. 

Size, yield and quality are good in areas not affected by the June flooding. During the season, late blight was well controlled by growers and practically no late blight tuber issues have been detected at harvest.

Manitoba

Harvest is virtually completed in the province.  Yields have been mixed but solid overall.  

Manitoba’s fresh crop appears to have above-average yields and quality, particularly on yellow varieties. The Red River Valley south of the border also has above average yields and good quality. For the combined area, there will be more yellow production overall.

Pricing has been good and very competitive with the U.S., given cheaper freight rates in Canada for delivered prices. In early October, red packers in North Dakota and Wisconsin reported that market demand exceeded available trucks for delivery. U.S. packers need to add $1.50 to $2.00/cwt on packaged product to accommodate the increased freight rates needed to attract these carriers.  Winnipeg, being a much better freight destination for trucks, has not seen the issue intensify like the Red River Valley which depends on back hauls to move their spuds. Fresh packers who are quoting prices out several weeks into the market will need to key an eye on this developing situation.

Saskatchewan

Harvest is wound up. It was too hot for harvest earlier in the season, which slowed the bulking process and also challenged ventilation systems to bring in outside air cool enough for storages. The growing season was quite variable with Regina, for instance, receiving virtually no rain. For areas that received moisture or had the benefit of irrigation, the yield turned out well with good type. Snow in the Swift Current area slowed harvest.

Alberta

Given a challenging growing season with excessive heat and dry conditions, growers worked hard to irrigate and bring in a decent crop. Harvest is now 90 per cent to nearly complete.  The seed crop is almost done. 

Yields are estimated at 382 cwt/acre which is slightly below last year’s 388 cwt/acre. Quality is excellent with a smaller than normal size profile due to the huge set in the crop. 

Processors seem interested in overage given that several areas of the U.S. and Canada are reporting lower than expected supplies of raw product for their fry plants.  More product is expected to move out of Alberta to regions of need. 

British Columbia

Harvest is 90 per cent complete, with the Pemberton area still to finish. Growers are thankful for excellent cool and sunny harvest conditions, as they had to leave their crop green much later this year to get good size and maturity. The profile is smaller than last year’s but quality appears excellent. Yields are close to average, but smaller than the crop of 2016. 

Source: Kevin MacIsaac, United Potato Growers of Canada.  

 

 

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Publish date: 
Thursday, October 12, 2017

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