P.E.I. potato harvest yields fewer spuds due to drought

·2 min read

Most P.E.I. potato farmers have harvested all their spuds, and are not surprised to report the 2020 crop is down.

"We all know we had a hot, dry summer — it was a drought, and that really took its toll on a lot of the crop," said P.E.I. Potato Board general manager Greg Donald, adding an early frost didn't help. "Production is definitely down this year because of that hot, dry weather."

Yields are down by 20 to 25 per cent or more on farms in central P.E.I., Donald said, because that region received less rain than eastern or western P.E.I. Yields refer to the amount of potatoes harvested per hectare.

Some timely rains allowed fields in eastern and western P.E.I. to yield an average amount, he said.

"On the positive side, quality is very good," Donald added, and the harvest conditions were good, so the potatoes should store well.

Demand, prices good

Producers are feeling "a little discouraged, for sure," he said. "It's a tough business."

Laura Meader/CBC
Laura Meader/CBC

Much of the crop is already pre-contracted, he said, so growers already know how much they will be paid by weight.

"That's why when yields aren't where they need to be, it has such a negative impact," he explained.

Neighbouring potato-growing areas of New Brunswick and Maine were similarly affected by drought, Donald said, and the rest of North America has harvested an "average" crop.

Farmers had also planted fewer potatoes this spring following a downturn in food service sales during the coronavirus pandemic, but some of that business has rebounded, Donald said.

"Demand is definitely good, and prices in the fresh market are reflective of that — but again, if you don't have the crop and yields are down ... that can make it tough," he said.

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