Abundance of potatoes caused by restaurant industry shutdown hasn't affected retail price
HALIFAX -- The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a dramatic toll on the potato industry. With no one to buy them, spuds are rotting in the shed.
In Halifax, they're giving them away. Ten-pound bags of potatoes were handed out to those in need Wednesday by the Salvation Army.
A dramatic drop in demand means farmers in the Maritimes now have millions of pounds of potatoes sitting in storage -- potatoes that should be at a processors being turned into french fries and hash browns.
"We have a perishable product here in storage so we only have so much time," said Matt Hemphill of Potatoes New Brunswick.
But some Maritimers might be wondering, with demand having taken a deep dive, why grocery store prices haven't done the same?
Dalhousie professor Sylvain Charlebois says part of the reason is due to the potential for future "sticker shock" doing damage to the industry.
"If potato prices go up and grocers are forced to sell their product at six, seven, eight, nine dollars for a 10-pound bag, it will be literally impossible to do because people will be very accustomed to paying very little for a 10-pound bag," Charlebois said.
Hemphill said his industry has tried to avoid there being a glut on the market.
"We've done a good job in balancing the supply with the demand, so they're hasn't necessarily been an influx of potatoes," Hemphill said.
Hemphill says, so far, potatoes have been sent out to help make cattle feed, potato flakes, and even to be broken down as energy and eventually sold onto the power grid.