Consumption is down 18.9 percent since 2007
TABER, Alta. — Per capita consumption of potatoes continues to drop in Canada and that is having effects on Alberta potato growers.
North American acres of potatoes are down five to six percent this year and Alberta growers planted about 3,000 fewer acres as processors reduced their contracts.
“We are eating a lot less potatoes,” said Potato Growers of Alberta executive director Terence Hochstein.
His figures show 2011 Canadian per capita consumption of potatoes at 11.75 kilograms per person. In 2007, the figure was 14.49 kg. He said that indicates an 18.9 percent decrease in domestic potato consumption in the last five years.
Concerned about the trend, the PGA is participating in a study commissioned by the Canadian Potato Council and the Canadian Horticulture Council to investigate reasons for reduced consumption and collect ideas for reversing the direction.
“We’ll see if we can come up with some answers on why is this trending down and what do we need to do as an industry to reverse it or stall it,” said Hochstein.
Results are expected by the end of this year.
Not all vegetables are seeing reduced rates of consumption, which makes potato producers wonder about the trend, he added.
“It is a concern, when you consider the consumption of carrots is up 22.2 percent, onions are up nine percent, cabbage is up 10 percent.”
There were 52,000 acres of potatoes planted in Alberta this year, including seed, processing and chipper varieties. About 39,000 of those are in the southern region.
Irrigation, heat units and the presence of processors including McCain’s, Lamb-Weston, Cavendish Farms, Hostess and Old Dutch make the region attractive for potato production.
Hochstein said this year’s crop is doing well, despite hail damage to about 4,000 acres in early July.
Harvest has begun for potatoes processed into potato chips and full-scale harvest of processing potatoes is expected to begin around Sept. 10. Harvest will be later for acres that had to recover from hail damage.
“There will be very few unharvestable acres,” Hochstein said.
Some growers in the Taber region have been battling late blight, which thrives in the hot, humid conditions that have been common this summer.
“Growers have managed it very well,” Hochstein said. “The growers have got a very tight spray program. Most guys are spraying every seven days and rotating their chemicals and staying on top of it.”
Monitoring of late blight will continue as part of PGA research efforts. Other projects will monitor fusarium and verticillium wilt, though neither have caused major problems this year.
- Plant certified seed potatoes.
- Rotate crops within your garden.
- Plant potatoes in a warm, dry, sunny area.
- Do not overwater.
- Hill potatoes to prevent spores from washing down to tubers.
- Apply home garden fungicides.
- Do not over-fertilize.
- Plants will have dark, water-soaked lesions on leaves.
- Initial spots may have yellow edges that turn brown or black in a few days and become brittle when dry.
- Spore production looks like fluffy white growth on edges of lesions on underside of leaves.
- A fungal pathogen called Phytophthora infestans that was responsible for infamous Irish potato famine in 1840s.
- Blight can also infect tomatoes.
- It is a highly aggressive pathogen that can can infect all parts of plant causing rapid plant die back and death.
- It survives in infected potatoes, cull piles and garden debris.