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Manitoba potato industry on shaky ground says McCain VP

Apr. 7, 2014 - Manitoba potato producers are pricing themselves out of the market, according to Christine Wentworth, McCain Foods' vice-president of agriculture for North America.

In a story published in the Brandon Sun, Wentworth said the province is becoming a high-cost producer, sounding alarms that further cuts could be headed the industry's way. "Manitoba, like other areas in Canada, is not competitive with the (United States) Pacific Northwest," Wentworth said.

Wentworth said potato producers in Manitoba get about 320 CWT per acre, with one CWT representing 100 pounds of potatoes. In areas of the U.S. those yields can balloon to between 450 to 500 CWT, with the Pacific Northwest leading the way as the highest yielding, lowest-cost region in North America.

Wentworth contends it's not that costs are going up (in Manitoba), it is that in the past the low Canadian dollar masked the inefficiencies. "Increasing yields is essential for the long-term viability of the Canadian potato industry, regardless of foreign exchange."

Another catalyst for contract cuts is the declining consumption of french fries in the North American diet, according to Wentworth.