November 29th, 2020

Southern Alberta producers pleased with potato harvest

By Jensen, Randy on October 28, 2020.

A crop of potatoes grows in the hot summer sun earlier this season in a field near Chin between Coaldale and Taber. Herald photo by Ian Martens @IMartensHerald

Tim Kalinowski

Lethbridge Herald

Local potato growers are pleased with this year’s harvest, and are also finding ready markets for their product with local food processors, says Potato Growers of Alberta executive director Terence Hochstein.

“It was probably one of our better harvests in a long time,” he confirms. “Mother Nature co-operated. We really didn’t have many delays. It worked out quite well for both the south and north (of Alberta). The quality of the crop was very good, and it actually turned out quite well.”

Local potato processing plants either halted or drastically curtailed production on the 2019 harvest after the COVID-19 pandemic shut down restaurants all over the world, leaving few markets for selling frozen french fries.

With processors’ freezers full, and without other processing options, Hochstein told The Herald earlier this year he feared what remained of the 2019 potato crop in storage may have to be destroyed. However, producers largely found a home for the crop in the fresh food and livestock feed markets. The worry was the same slow market conditions might persist into this fall’s 2020 harvest after a second wave of COVID-19 hit.

So far, early into this potato processing season, that has not been the case, says Hochstein.

“Touch wood,” he says, “and we’ll see what happens with this next second or third wave (of COVID), however you want to look at it. But, yes, our product we have harvested is committed to by all of the processors – Cavendish, Lamb Weston and McCain’s as well the two chippers, Old Dutch and Frito Lay. They will take the product, and they have actually picked up a little extra from the time they contracted because they feel they can make use of it.

“Earlier on we weren’t sure what was going to happen with this crop coming off this fall,” he acknowledges, “but, unless things change dramatically, it looks like it will all be bought.”

Hochstein also confirms the Cavendish plant is fully up and running again after briefly being shut down due to a recent COVID outbreak.

Follow @TimKalHerald on Twitter

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