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Growers Address Supply Issues in PEI

United Potato Growers of America (United) said its bid buy-down program has helped reduce potato acreage. Preliminary numbers show U.S. fresh potato acreage down 35,000 acres, with an additional 4,000 fresh potato acres cut on the East Coast outside of areas organized by United producers.

Calculating from last year’s yields of 401 cwt. per acre, United has removed approximately 15.6 million cwt. of potatoes, representing an 11 percent reduction in potatoes available for fresh shipments from the 2005 crop, said Jerry Wright, CEO of United Potato Growers of America.

Potato growers from across the United States met in Prince Edward Island (PEI) last week and communicated with Canadian potato growers on the excess supplies that have plagued U.S. and Canadian potato markets for the last several years.

“We must realize that focusing on production in our back yard isn’t good enough,” said Albert Wada, chairman of the board of United Potato Growers of America. “We must work together with Canadian growers, who are experiencing the same challenges we are, to help all potato growers receive a fair return for their crop. Only by working together can we assure the financial viability of our farms and communities, now and for the next generation.”

PEI, the largest potato-growing province in Canada with more than 100,000 acres of potatoes and a major competitor in U.S. fresh and frozen potato markets, recognized the supply management efforts of United this spring and voted to cap island potato acreage for each grower.

“United’s efforts are an ongoing and fundamental change in how potato growers will balance supply with demand,” Wright said. “Unity with Canada has been a great stepping stone for United.”

Potato growers from New Brunswick, Ontario, Manitoba and PEI attended the PEI meeting.

“We strongly support United’s mission to manage potato supplies so growers can receive a fair price for their product while ensuring our customers and the consumer can access high quality, fair-priced potatoes on a consistent basis,” said Morley Wood, chairman of PEI’s Potato Board. “We look forward to continuing the open communication this meeting has initiated.”

Ivan Noonan, general manager of the PEI Potato Board, added: “Canadian growers project a 24,000 total acreage reduction (including fresh, process and seed), lead by the United-influenced 9,600 acre cut in PEI. According to projected Canadian potato yields, the 24,000 acreage reduction has removed approximately 6.5 million cwt. of 2005 crop potatoes from the market.”

To date, United co-ops have been formed in several potato-growing regions and account for 75 percent of fresh potato acres across the United States. United’s legal counsel is exploring how Canada can formally join the cooperative. For more information about United’s programs, visit http://www.unitedpotatoesusa.com
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Originally posted Wednesday, Jun. 22, 2005

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