Washington potato growers, Canadian consumers help one another

09/20/2011 11:27:00 AM
Dan Gailbraith

Valley Pride Sales Inc., Mount Vernon, Wash., is only one hour south of the Canadian border. With the average price of diesel fuel hovering just over $4 on the West Coast in mid-September, that short distance makes Valley’s berries a smart choice for Canadian buyers, said sales manager Dale Hayton.

“They pick it up in the morning here and have it in the afternoon,” he said.

“The freight cost of doing that is far less than if they loaded it in California. That’s an advantage for them. The dollar is on par with Canadian currency right now so that plays into their buying decisions as well.”

Vice president Dean Cunningham said Washington Lettuce & Vegetable Co., Mount Vernon, sells two or three loads of produce to Canadian buyers each week.

He said Vancouver is about 90 minutes away, while Calgary and Edmonton are 12 and 18 hours, respectively.

Skagit Valley’s Best Produce Inc., Mount Vernon, Wash., takes a different approach, focusing its north-of-the-border sales efforts on central and eastern Canada, marketing and sales manager Cliff Corwin said.

“There’s a lot of competition among ourselves,” Corwin said of Washington shippers, “and British Columbia has its own potato industry that’s similar to ours. When they have their own product there is a tariff on U.S. potatoes unless they have volume or quality issues.”

Rather than deal with British Columbia’s tariff, Corwin said Skagit Valley’s Best sends product to buyers in Saskatchewan, Ontario and Quebec.



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