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Manitoba potato acres projected to fall

This year, potato acres are expected to fall in Manitoba, Canada, as french fry companies cut back on process potato contracts.

Potato acres are expected to fall in Manitoba this spring, as french fry companies cut back on process potato contracts.

Potato growers are still negotiating contracts with Simplot and McCain Foods, which operate processing plants in Carberry and Portage la Prairie, but preliminary talks suggest volumes and acres will be down compared to 2015.

“Simplot has indicated they’re going to be down about 10.7 percent (in volume),” said Dan Sawatzky, Keystone Potato Producers Association manager. “They did go about 22 percent (higher) last year. So I think this is a little bit of a correction.”

The contract volume for McCain Foods, which operates two plants in Manitoba, should be flat compared to 2015, Sawatzky said.

However, the Cavendish Foods plant in Jamestown, North Dakota, is not contracting potato production in Manitoba this year because there’s an oversupply of old crop potatoes in the state.

“We have lost all volume from Cavendish Farms,” Sawatzky said. “They have contracted (production) in the province for probably the last 10 years.”

In total, Manitoba process potato production will likely be down about 7.5 percent from last year.

“How that translates into acres, it depends on the farmer. I’m thinking a couple of thousand acres (lower),” Sawatzky said.

“They (growers) need to target higher yields to make it work out.”

Manitoba seeded acres were 67,000 last year and 63,000 in 2014. Potato acreage in 2012 was 76,000.

Contract volumes are similar to last year in Canada’s other major potato producing provinces. Growers in Prince Edward Island accepted a rollover contract and Alberta acres should be comparable to 2015.

Throughout North America, potato acres will likely be lower than 2015.

“The contract has been down in some areas, both in the U.S. and Canada,” said Kevin MacIsaac, United Potato Growers of Canada general manager. “Some areas in volume, some areas in price…. There’s no area that I know, which actually went up.”