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Some areas of Prince Edward Island seeing potato shortages due to weather

by Christina DiMArtino | December 06, 2011

While some areas of Prince Edward Island, Canada, suffered considerable potato shortages due to weather conditions this year, others fared well. The quality of the harvested spuds, however, is good. Linkletter Farms in Summerside, PEI, is among those firms seeing considerable losses to their crops.

Mark MacEwen, a partner-owner of Linkletter Farms, told The Produce News that the company’s crop is 15-25 percent down.

“The quality of the potatoes that made it is really good, but the yield is down,” said Mr. MacEwen. “We had a very late planting season due to the rainy spring, which caused us to be three weeks late getting plants in the ground. That contributed to the shorter number of sunny days that the plants had to grow during the summer. When we were getting long sunlit days, the plants were just pushing through the ground, so they missed this key growing period.”

Harvesting at Linkletter Farms concluded the last week of October this year. Mr. MacEwen said that the company is managing its shipping to ensure customers’ orders are filled, but he added that prices are up due to the shorter crop.

“Russet Burbanks and other late-season varieties got hit the worst,” he said. “These represent about one-third of our crop. The early potatoes, which are all of our rounds such as golds, reds, yellows and other russets, fared about average. The late reds are shorter than others. We have two red varieties, and one is a little later than the other. It’s the later-season reds that did not perform well. Our late red crop is down by about 20 percent.”

Mr. MacEwen said that he has heard that shortages are running across the board in northeastern Canada, and that New Brunswick and Ontario are up to 30 percent down. Maine is not a big producer, and growers there are seeing some storage issues, he said.

“We are doing business with some customers that Maine usually handles,” he noted. Growers in Maine are having some ‘melting down’ issues. This is when the stored potatoes start to soften and ultimately rot rather than hardening. Fortunately for us, our stored potatoes are in excellent condition.”

Because of the shortage, Linkletter Farms is buying potatoes from other farmers in PEI this year, and Mr. MacEwen said that they are paying record prices.

Linkletter Farms produces mainly table-stock potatoes. It grows about 1,500 acres of potatoes on its own farm, with a rotation of hay, wheat, barley and soybeans.

Greg Donald, general manager of the Prince Edward Island Potato Board in Charlottetown, PEI, told The Produce News that PEI’s potato crop fared much better than Summerside in other areas of the island.

“Island-wide, our potato crop has been pretty stable for the last three years,” said Mr. Donald. “It went up to about 86,000 acres last year, and with above average yields per acre. This year, we’re at about 85,500 acres.”

Mr. Donald added that this year’s per-acre yields are slightly below average this year, but some parts of the island are having some of the nicest Burbank potatoes they’ve ever seen.

“It’s unfortunate that some areas did not fare as well because of the wet spring,” he said. “Growers here on PEI are very tuned into the market, and they watch the PEI and Canada stats in the market report every week. We wish we had more potatoes to market, but overall we’re grateful that not all areas suffered losses.”