True North Seed Potato Company

Industry Overview

Canadian Production

In 2004, Canada was the 12th largest potato producer in the world with production of 5.2 million metric tonnes (MT). Understandably, the potato is the most important vegetable crop in Canada, accounting for 37% of all vegetable farm cash receipts or C$892 million in the 2004 calendar year. Production was concentrated in Prince Edward Island, Manitoba, Alberta and New Brunswick. The Western region represented 42% of the Canadian production, the Atlantic region 40% and the Central region 18%. At 5.2 million MT, Canadian production was 1% down from the 2003 record year and 14% over the previous five year average. With a yield of 30.47 MT/hectare (ha), Canada set a new record yield in 2004, surpassing by 4% the previous high of 29.17 MT/ha achieved in 2003. In 2004, Canadian growers planted 175, 500 ha and harvested 98% of the planted area or 171,800 ha. The 2001 Census of Agriculture reported 3,887 potato farms in Canada, and an average farm size of approximately 44 ha per potato farm.

Seed Potato export volume increased by 7% during the 2003-2004 crop year from 127,000 MT to 136,000 MT, but the value decreased by 27% from C$45 to C$33 million. Most exports were to the U.S., Mexico, Venezuela, Guatemala, and Dominican Republic. Shipments to the U.S. accounted for C$24 million or 72% of Canada’s exports. Other valued seed markets during the period (C$ million) were Mexico (3.7), Venezuela (2.9), Guatemala (0.8) and Dominican Republic (0.4). Alberta exported 50,500 MT of seed potatoes followed by Saskatchewan at 27,300 MT, New Brunswick at 26,600 MT, Prince Edward Island at 16,900 MT, British Columbia at 8,900 MT and Manitoba at 2,700 MT. In 2003-2004, Canada exported seed potatoes to 22 countries compared to 14 the previous year. In 2003-2004, Canadian seed imports were 11,600 MT worth C$3.2 million, all from the U.S.

For more information download the report: Canadian Potato Situation and Trends 2004-2005

Saskatchewan Production

Potato production in Saskatchewan has been steadily increasing since the late 1970s. Total acres planted rose from 2,300 in 1980 to an estimated 12,000 acres in 2004. The concurrent increase in production has meant additional farm revenue with potatoes providing over $61 million in farm value in 2004 compared to $5 million in 1980.

Significant growth in potato production has occurred in the irrigated areas near Lake Diefenbaker. Great potential for further expansion exists in the Lake Diefenbaker Development Area (LDDA) where 73,000 acres out of 105,000 irrigated acres are suitable for potatoes providing 18,000 acres annually based on a four year rotation.

The majority of potatoes grown In Saskatchewan are sold into the fresh or table trade and for seed. Approximately 70% of the potatoes grown in Saskatchewan are inspected as seed.

Saskatchewan Marketing & Price

The price for seed, table and processing potatoes in Western Canada is a function of the North American supply and demand. The North American market is essentially mature and any new production looks to displace existing production through a price seeking mechanism. Potatoes, in their raw form can not be stored indefinitely. Hence a large North American crop results in downward price pressure. On the other hand, a reduced crop results in the market bidding up the price to the point where adequate supplies become available. For example, the relatively low prices experienced in 2002-2004 were a direct result of a good average crop in North America coupled with a downturn in demand. Long-term growth In the North American production; however, will result in larger exports of processed and specialty products. This type of an Industry goal will act to create more price stability.

The potato industry in Saskatchewan is underdeveloped compared to that in the neighboring provinces. While the slightly longer growing season in southern Alberta and the Red River Valley of Manitoba is an advantage, the greater concentration of potato production, especially in Manitoba, increases the risk of disease transmission. The relative isolation of potato farms in Saskatchewan is a distinct advantage, particularly to seed producers who promote their seed on the basis of freedom from disease, northern vigor, clean soils and high-quality irrigation water.

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