P.E.I. potato sales aren't benefiting from lower loonie

The dropping dollar, hovering just above the 70-cent U.S., mark, has not translated into bargain-hunting American importers snapping up spuds south of the border. In fact, potato exports to the U.S. are down.

P.E.I. potato sales to the U.S. down 4%, says Potato Board

Potatoes picked up and dumped into truck. (CBC)

Many export industries in Canada are smiling right now, with the low value of the loonie meaning more business with the United States. 

But that advantage has not translated into a windfall for P.E.I. potato growers. The dropping dollar, which is hovering just above the 70-cent U.S. mark, has not translated into bargain-hunting American importers snapping up spuds south of the border. 

In fact, U.S. exports of P.E.I.'s 2015 crop are down about four per cent, according to the PEI Potato Board. 

"Really the potato itself is being priced the way it is in similar years, not taking advantage of that exchange rate in there," said Kevin McIsaac with the United Potato Growers of Canada.

"Growers, shippers, dealers have become used to the fact that we were at one time at-par dollar. And that's changed significantly," 

The lack of sales to the U.S. boils down to supply and demand, said the PEI Potato Board. The Island didn't have as good a growing season last summer as other areas closer to the American market including New Brunswick and Quebec — areas that also have lower freight costs to the U.S.

"Certainly the exchange has helped. But in our business supply from the various producing areas can have a greater impact on movement into markets, and that's what we're seeing this year," said the Board's general manager Greg Donald. 

"So places like New Brunswick, Quebec, the state of Maine, a number of the mid-states to the East coast, had larger crops last year."

Value-for-money veggie

Canadian sales of P.E.I. potatoes, the Board said, are also down about six per cent. Again, because other potato-growing areas had banner crops, they're having more luck right now getting their products into grocery stores. 

Donald hopes as supply in other provinces starts to run out, things could start to change. 

And with imported fruits and vegetables becoming so expensive, the Board is mounting a marketing campaign profiling the potato as a cheaper, healthy, value-for-money veggie.  

On a brighter note, international exports of P.E.I. spuds, excluding the U.S., are up this year. The end result is overall sales so far are on a par with last year's. 

With files from Steve Bruce


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