Good weather gave Lower Mainland potato growers a jump on seeding an estimated 6,500 acres of potatoes in April, with several growers already finished by May 7 when BC Vegetable Marketing Commission members received reports on how the past year had treated growers.
The commission’s market analyst Aanchal Sandhu presented a statistical report that highlighted the role of local demand and strong pricing in boosting sales of root crops and greenhouse vegetables to $416 million last year. This was up 12.5% from 2019.
“People wanted to buy local so there was a strong market demand for BC product,” she says. “Also, kudos to strategic marketing with promotion geared to the value added categories.”
Potatoes were among the crops that benefited, with pricing reaching a 10-year high of $833 a ton.
The increase came despite lower demand from the foodservice channel that shifted production away from Kennebecs to yellow varieties designed for home consumption. Red and white varieties also saw gains, with fresh white potatoes enjoying a 12.5% price increase.
“It looks like we have the best year so far,” says Sandhu.
The total value of root crops increased to approximately $80 million, with potatoes worth $56.4 million and all other regulated root crops valued at $23.8 million.
Greenhouse crops also saw strong pricing last year, with total value rising 10% to $336 million. This is supporting greater acreage this year after a decline of 36 acres last year.
Greenhouse growers intend to boost both tomato and pepper production this year, while production of specialty crops such as lettuces will decrease. The net increase will see the growing area expand to 3 million square metres (730 acres) and deliver a 7% increase in production.
Sandhu notes that sweet bell peppers currently account for 53% of BC greenhouse production, with red peppers leading the way with 27.3% of greenhouse production.
While beefsteak production fell 49% in 2020, prices rose to their highest level in five years. Tomatoes on the vine also saw lower production and significantly higher pricing in 2020.