In Canada, fresh potatoes suffer slow decline in consumption

10/20/2010 12:25:37 AM
Tom Karst

Here is the just released USDA FAS annual report on Canadian potato production.

Some highlights of the 12-page report, which notes Canadian fresh potato consumption has suffered a slow decline for the past decade:  The last item on the page - the New Brunswick market database - may be interesting to track in a couple of years.

From the report:

Canadian growers continue to decrease potato acreage in order to bring production more in-line with market demand. Statistics Canada reported a decline of 3.2 percent in planted areas, down to 145.4 thousand hectares for the marketing year (MY) 2010/11. Post forecast a reduction of 3.4 percent in the production of fresh potatoes, down to 4.425 million metric tons (MMT) during MY 2010/11.

Imports of fresh potatoes are forecast to decrease 2.5 percent to 220 TMT during MY 2010/11, while exports are forecast to increase 0.8 percent to 375 TMT. Given a lower production of fresh potatoes and a strong Canadian dollar, both production and exports of frozen french fries are forecast to decline: the former by 1.9 percent down to 1.15 MMT and the latter by 0.5 percent down to 900 TMT compared to the year before.

The size of the Canadian market of fresh potatoes destined to processing is about three times the size of the market for fresh table potatoes. This is due to the fact that large processing companies produce frozen french fries and other processed potato products (such a chips) for the export market.

In Canada consumption of fresh potatoes has seen a slow decline over the past decade. Given domestic market trends Post forecasts fresh potato consumption at 875 thousand metric tons (TMT) for MY 2010/11, down 2.9 percent compared to one year earlier.

Post also forecasts a decline of 0.9 percent in the processing market of fresh potatoes, down to 2.825 MMT compared to the previous year, driven by a lower production and exports of frozen french fries. Imports of fresh potatoes are forecast to decrease 2.5 percent to 220 TMT during MY 2010/11, while exports are forecast to increase 0.8 percent to 375 TMT, both trends mainly impacted by tighter supplies in both Canada and the United Sates.

The Government of Canada is spending up to C$123,000 to help New Brunswick potato farmers capture new markets and increase profitability by investing in a new market information database. The Potato Market Data Information Gathering and Analyses system will give farmers a stronger bargaining position with buyers by equipping them with updated, real-time information on New Brunswick’s potato acreage, potato varieties planted, storage estimates, prices and market destinations. The database is expected to be completed by March 2011. The project is being led by Potatoes New Brunswick, a producer marketing organization which works with industry partners on behalf of 225 potato farmers.

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