Lower acreages and yields across North America and severe growing problems in Canada, Russia and western Europe should mean strong demand for Prince Edward Island potatoes in the 2010-11 season, officials and growers say.

“We’re optimistic about the marketing season,” said Greg Donald, general manager of the Charlottetown-based Prince Edward Island Potato Board. “It looks like the (North American) total could be the lowest production since the early ’90s. Supply and demand should at least be in balance, if not demand exceeding supply.”

In mid-October, Linkletter Farms Ltd., Summerside, Prince Edward Island, was sensing just that.

“We’re getting calls on reds and yellows that we don’t usually get,” said Gary Linkletter, president and co-owner.

Movement was steady in the early going of the Prince Edward Island new crop deal, with harvest about 80% completed as of Oct. 21, Donald said.

Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick also enjoyed normal growing seasons and expect good quality, Donald said, but the same can’t be said for other spud-growing areas of Canada.

“Alberta had an awful spring and an awful growing season, Manitoba as well,” he said.

Significantly lower volumes out of those regions should equate to stronger demand for Prince Edward potatoes, Donald said.

For Linkletter Farms, which keeps most of its fresh crop in Canada, it’s a tale of two countries when it comes to demand.

The company expects healthy competition in the eastern part of the country from growing regions that, like PEI, enjoyed good growing weather this season, Linkletter said.

Further west, though, in markets closer to regions hit harder for poor weather, it’s a different story.

“People are surprisingly hungry for potatoes,” he said.

Growing problems in other parts of Canada and the world should strengthen demand for Prince Edward Island potatoes, said Brian Beaton, potato coordinator for the Prince Edward Island Department of Agriculture, Charlottetown.

In Canada, Manitoba and other western growing areas suffered from problems ranging from stronger disease pressure to too much rain to not enough rain.

Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick, however, enjoyed good growing weather, as did Prince Edward Island, and expect good quality and normal volumes, Beaton said.