Overproduction hurting P.E.I. potato industry

Chris Gregory
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East Point farming sisters Jorie and Keisha Rose check out the latest equipment at the Potato Expo held at the Eastlink Centre in Charlottetown Friday. While Keisha farms with East Point Potatoes, sister Jorie is a sales marketer with Earth Fresh Foods in Halifax.

The Island’s staple potato industry may be experiencing a slump.

At least one Island potato grower who attended the International Potato Expo on the weekend says farms like his are struggling to sell potatoes because there are just too many of them.

“Overproduction is our biggest enemy, and until we have that straightened out, it’s going to be tough,” said Donald Godfrey.

“We’re growing too many potatoes. There’s pressure on the market, they’re hard to sell and we’re not getting the prices we should be getting or the price we deserve.”

Until farmers can find a way to overcome the issue of overproduction, they need to look at farming different crops so they aren’t hurting as bad financially, he said.

“Farmers need to diversify and do other things to help.”

His son, Robert, is the executive director of the P.E.I. Federation of Agriculture. He has remained optimistic though he knows there are some issues and challenges in the current market.

He said he has not heard too much negativity from the board and from the potato growers themselves, but everyone is aware of the pressures the industry is facing.

“There’s a bit of a glut in the market, but guys are working hard to move what they can,” Robert Godfrey said.

A large part of the problem is out of the farmers’ hands, he said.

That's because the success of other potato producing regions directly affects how well the Island will do.

“Look at a place like Idaho. Idaho grows more potatoes in a run of a year than all of Canada combined. If they have a big year, we’re in trouble,” he said.

“It’s tough to deal with that. It’s definitely a challenge.”

Organizations: P.E.I. Federation of Agriculture

Geographic location: Iceland, Idaho, Canada

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Recent comments

  • no thanks
    March 02, 2016 - 17:27

    potatoes are a gamble -growers are gamblers !!

  • PEI Observer
    March 02, 2016 - 15:11

    The article makes it sound like the overproduction happened here in PEI. It didn't. The overproduction was in New Brunswick, Quebec and Maine, and because they're offering potatoes to the markets at lower prices, our farmers are being asked to do the same. The PEI supply was the right level, but bumper crops and too many acres elsewhere are causing the price pressure. Re Upwester - excellent question. Maybe the reporter could ask the grocery stores for an answer on that. The farmers sure aren't getting paid more for potatoes sold in PEI stores versus the ones they ship to Ontario.

  • Mel
    March 02, 2016 - 13:25

    A big part of the problem is poor quality potatoes. I don't buy PEI potatoes any more because I usually end up throwing half of them out. A few months ago I bought a bag of Superior's and had to throw the whole bag out. Every potato in the ten pound bag was covered in scabs. They are often full of cuts, bruises, black spots, etc. Whoever is grading the potatoes is doing a terrible job. Until things improve I will not be buying Island potatoes.

    • Bud the Spud
      March 02, 2016 - 15:46

      So Mel, you expect potatoes all to be uniform size (in case you don't know what that means, it means same or similar size) with no blemishes, warts, knicks or that harmless black "scab." Most people wash, peel or at least cut off the offending stuff and the potato is perfectly good to eat. I suppose you take a tape measure to ensure all the carrots are the exact same length. What about french fries? In your mind do they have to be uniform in size. I won't even ask your opinion of tomatoes.

    March 02, 2016 - 09:30

    If there is such a glut on the market, why are we still paying $5.99 for a ten lb. bag that sells for $2.99 in Ontario? Whatever happened to supply and demand?