Overproduction hurting P.E.I. potato industry

Published on March 2, 2016

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.

©STEVE SHARRATT/THE GUARDIAN

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.”