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article imageFrench fries may be in short supply after poor potato harvest

By Karen Graham     Dec 3, 2019 in Business
Cold, wet weather and the impact of Hurricane Dorian have damaged potato crops in the United States and Canada. That means smaller and fewer potatoes, and smaller spuds are harder for french fry processors.
The total potato crop across the United States is estimated to be down 27,569,000 hundredweight below the 2018 crop, and basing measurements on the top nine potato producing states - this means a decrease of 6.1 percent compared to last year.
Canada is not fairing much better, according to CTV News Canada. About 18 percent of Manitoba’s harvest was left in the ground due to poor weather this year. This equals the amount abandoned across Canada in 2018. Add to that the 6.5 percent pf potatoes damaged by the cold weather in Alberta.
A full breakdown for Canadian potato producers will be out on December 6, 2019.
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BNN Bloomberg notes the cooler conditions started hitting growing regions in North America in October this year, with heavy frosts and wet snow that lingered on the fields.
Farmers in Alberta and Idaho were able to dig up some damaged crops for storage. But growers in Manitoba, North Dakota and Minnesota received snow and rain, forcing them to abandon some potatoes in the fields.
In Manitoba, an estimated 12,000 acres (about 4,900 hectares), or 18 percent of the province’s planted area, were left unharvested -- equal to what was abandoned for all of Canada last season, according to the United Potato Growers of Canada. Manitoba is the country’s second-largest grower, followed by Alberta. Prince Edward Island (PEI) is Canada's largest potato grower.
Rising costs and the French Fry problem
A poor growing season means the potatoes that do get harvested will usually be smaller, and of course, with crop losses, there will be fewer spuds on the market. It is likely that potato prices could climb this year across North America,
Stephen Nicholson, a senior grains and oilseeds analyst at Rabobank, said in a phone interview. International costs may also rise as the U.S. won’t be able to export as much.
Potato processors like big potatoes for cutting into french fries. Small potatoes just won't make the cut, so to speak. Potato processors are rushing to buy supplies and ship them across North America in order to keep French fries on the menu.
“French fry demand has just been outstanding lately, and so suppliers can’t meet the demand, "Travis Blacker, industry-relations director with the Idaho Potato Commission, said in a phone interview.
More about potato harvest, northern america, Bad weather, French fries, Prices
 
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