SAINT JOHN -- Potato farmers in Atlantic Canada are worried about their supply with COVID-19 and extreme weather conditions causing complications.

After closing for months for COVID-19, Saint John’s Barred Rock Chicken has reopened, and the deep fryer is back in action.

With fries and poutine on the menu, the restaurant goes through a steady supply of spuds.

“People love potatoes, people love starch,” says owner Jesse Vergen.

Vegen owns Barred Rock Chicken and three other restaurants in the area, including the Saint John Alehouse. He says his restaurants go through more than a tonne of potatoes a week.

“We can kind of go back and forth, but we’re anywhere from 75 to 100 tonnes of potatoes a year,” says Vergen.

However, there are potato production problems. Restaurants being shutdown due to COVID-19 caused a devastating ripple effect for potato farms, and a dramatic downturn in demand.

Now with restrictions loosened and more businesses reopened, the industry is in a much different position.

“I would say today for french fries, a lot of factories are running somewhere about 80 per cent of where they were a year ago. So demand has increased to that level at this speed,” explains Kevin MacIssac, general manager of United Potato Growers of Canada.

MacIsaac says that growers had been advised in the spring to cut back their acreage, but demand bounced back more quickly than expected.

Potato farmers in Atlantic Canada have been thrown another curveball in the form of drought-like weather conditions this season, posing problems for growing.

“The net result is depending on the weather conditions we have today with this heat and dryness,” says MacIsaac. “We may be very tight for supply in terms of our potato crop this fall.”

An industry dealing with a difficult season, unlike any other.