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Potato growers in Prince Edward Island, Canada, experienced a difficult harvesting season this year. Greg Donald, general manager of the Prince Edward Island Potato Board in Charlottetown, PEI, met with Wesley J. Sheridan, PEI minister of agriculture, in late October to discuss the harvesting problems that growers were facing.

"I followed up on my meeting with the minister during the first week of November and requested disaster funding based on the then estimated 10- 15 percent potential crop loss," Mr. Donald told The Produce News in mid- November.

PEI had record rainfall of 11 inches during harvesting in early October. On Oct. 15, a frost set in, followed by several more frosts over the next couple of weeks. The start of PEI's harvest was delayed for 10 days to two weeks.

On Friday, Nov. 20, Statistics Canada issued the preliminary production estimate for the 2009 Canadian potato crop. The Prince Edward Island seeded area was indicated at 85,000 acres, while the harvested area is 82,000 acres. In 2008, PEI growers harvested 89,000 of a total 92,500-acre seeded area. Production in hundredweight for PEI in 2009 is estimated at 23.78 million compared to 24.92 million in 2008.

Gary Linkletter, president of Linkletter Farms in Summerside, PEI, concurred that growers on the island got a very late start this year, but he said that good weather during the last week of November helped many growers get a good portion of their crops out of the ground.

"The weather during the late part of November cleared up, so we were able to get into the fields to salvage what we could," said Mr. Linkletter. "We left 3,000 acres in the ground due to water damage, but it could have been a lot worse. During the early part of November, we were thinking that we might lose from 5,000 to 10,000 acres. Overall, it went much better than we projected."

Mr. Linkletter added that some growers fared much worse than Linkletter Farms. Growers will have to keep an eye on their potatoes for possible water or frost damage. Mud and dirt mixed in with some loads can make storage even more difficult.

Harvesting in PEI this year took about 30 percent longer than normal, and digging costs are said to be as much as 30 percent higher due to the heavy and constant rains.

Statistics Canada's preliminary production estimate for Canada's total 2009 potato crop is 102.39 million hundredweight, down 1 percent from last year's revised production.

The report added that the 2008 Canadian potato crop was the most valuable on record, breaking the billion-dollar mark at $1.2 billion (Canadian), up 23 percent from the value of the 2007 crop. The average value on all potatoes sold, consumed, seeded or fed to livestock in 2008 was $11.95 (Canadian) per hundredweight compared to $9.05 (Canadian) the previous year.

Newfoundland and British Columbia experienced the largest decreases in production, down 25 percent and 13 percent, respectively, while New Brunswick, which is up 7 percent from 2008, is showing the greatest increase. Quebec is showing an increase of 4 percent.

As of the Nov. 20 report, the percentage of Canada's crop expected to make grade was available upon request from Statistics Canada for all provinces except Ontario.