P.E.I producers look for sales boost from low loonie


Some producers are finding an upside to the slipping value of the Canadian dollar.

Canadian farmers and producers are touting the relatively low cost of locally-grown root and greenhouse vegetables, including potatoes, carrots, turnips, onions and indoor-grown cucumbers and peppers.

The Prince Edward Island Potato Board has begun a new marketing initiative to push potatoes as an inexpensive and healthy alternative to imported vegetables.

The campaign includes a new logo for P.E.I. potatoes that will be used on both generic and packer-specific packaging moving forward.

“The goal is to make it easier for consumers to identify P.E.I. potatoes in a somewhat cluttered marketplace, and hopefully make it automatic for them to reach for the same bag of high-quality potatoes,” says Ryan Barrett of the P.E.I. Potato Board.

The new bags are available in paper and plastic and in 10 and 5 lb sizes, he says.

P.E.I. is the largest producer of potatoes in Canada, with 225 family farms producing more than 2.5 billion pounds of potatoes in 2015, says Barrett.

Potato sales have been trending down the last few years, says Barrett, likely because of so much new and different produce coming on market. This year has been no exception, and the board is working to convince families to increase use of the staple potato by promoting it as a nutritious, versatile and low-cost alternative.

READ: Sliding loonie could mean higher grocery bills

“There is a definite trend in favour of “little potatoes” or “mini potatoes,” he says.

Producers and some distributors are cashing in on the low Canadian dollar by exporting to the Eastern Seaboard of the U.S., says André Plante of the Quebec Produce Growers Association

“We expect more (sales of) greenhouse products like peppers and cucumbers, and the same thing for storage vegetables like carrots, cabbage, potatoes and onions,” says Plante. “Sales are good, consumers are buying because of price and we can export more. We have never exported like this in 10-12 years. Producers are profiting.”

Pierre Desmanches, owner of an IGA in the Laurentiens, says prices of imported produce is skyrocketing and he and his partners at Sobeys are scrambling to find ways to provide shoppers with affordable produce. But, he says, there has been no visible increase in sales of potato or other domestic vegetables.

Ali Hajibi, owner of Akhavan, a Middle Eastern grocer with stores in Montreal and the suburban West Island, says he always has potatoes, carrots and onions at sale price, and has noticed no bump in demand.

“People can only buy one or two bags at a time,” he says.

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