Poor weather across Canada in 2018 led to strong demand for BC potatoes as the 2019 crop rolled in, members of the BC Potato and Vegetable Growers Association heard this week.
“It had a good crop and was able to take advantage of an industry that was ready for a new crop early in the season last fall,” Kevin MacIsaac, general manager of the United Potato Growers of Canada, told growers meeting in Delta this week.
BC growers tend approximately 6,700 acres of potatoes, the majority of it in the Lower Mainland. Despite challenging rains last September, just 100 acres were left in the ground for a total harvest of 2.1 million hundredweight (cwt) in 2019. Average yield was 325 cwt per acre.
Production in BC compared favourably to the rest of the country, which saw 20,296 acres unharvested in 2019 led by Manitoba (13,000 acres) and Alberta (4,385 acres). MacIsaac said the shortfall was surprising, as 2018 was considered to be a benchmark year for losses with 18,049 acres unharvested. The back-to-back years put growers on the Prairies in a difficult position, he noted, and helped push down BC stocks.
BC had 526 cwt of potatoes in storage as of February 1, down from 654 cwt a year earlier. Of these, 388 cwt were table stock, down 16% from a year earlier. However, storage stocks of fresh potatoes were in line with the province’s five-year average.
The industry’s strong position in BC, coupled with ongoing funding for variety trials and an annual field day that holds nationwide interest, is buoying optimism among growers. A key challenge, however, are inputs.
MacIsaac noted that the coronavirus outbreak could impact the supply of products manufactured in Asia, though the exact impact has yet to be sketched out. Restrictions on the use of certain pesticides coupled with decisions in several regulatory reviews have also raised fears concerning the elimination of additional crop management tools.