For the first quarter of the July 2020 – July 2021 marketing year, US frozen potato imports were up by 20%, according to farmers’ marketing association Potatoes USA. They add the total potato imports has seen a 19% increase, including a 28% increase in fresh potato imports from Canada, which were mainly for the retail market on the US East Coast. The frozen potato imports were also mostly from Canada, though the imports of frozen potatoes from Europe also rose.
“There was a lot of uncertainty in the sector when the pandemic first broke out, especially for the processed side. When the restrictions were put in place, both foodservice sales and exports dropped precipitously, so the processors were forced to cut back on their processing because the product was stacking up in their warehouses. Demand turned back around more quickly than they had anticipated, so that created a real challenge within the supply chain for the frozen product,” John Toaspern, chief marketing officer of Potatoes USA said. “Throughout the summer, fresh sales at retail were up about 20%, so US demand did take off and stayed very strong. Still, the retail demand hasn’t made up for foodservice. The foodservice industry just uses a higher volume of product per person fed than consumers do at home because the serving sizes at home are smaller. So, there was an imbalance there for a while, but it is settling out now.”
While Canada accounts for 90% of all frozen fry imports in the US, market shares are being gained by Belgium, the Netherlands, and Germany. The imports of frozen potatoes from Canada increased 17% in the first quarter, while imports from Belgium were up 119%, the Netherlands was up 35% and Germany was up 110%, Potatoes USA shows. In addition to this, European demand for potatoes was down over the summer and this caused their exports to increase, according to Toaspern.