“We’re not here to tell you what to grow and shove a quota system down your throats – I want to dispel that rumour right now.”
Potato growers have a new friend: the United Potato Growers of Canada (UPGC). The co-operative organization, while still relatively new, is ramping up its efforts to improve the marketing of potatoes for growers across the country. An information session held here on February 25 was the first of its kind in Alberta since the UPGC was formed in 2006.
Wayne Dorsey, a consultant with UPGC, told about 80 growers at the session that “information is power.”
“To maximize profits, potato growers must have market intelligence equal to or better than the people to whom they are selling their product,” said Dorsey. “The industry must supply only what the market demands.”
The organization’s mission is to produce potato industry information and analysis to help growers make timely production and marketing decisions. It supports all sectors, including fresh, processed, seed, chip and dehydrated potatoes.
In order to achieve those goals, UPGC has partnered with Bayer CropScience. This partnership is designed to benefit growers through information and data sharing, weekly conference calls, monthly meetings, protected and actual storage holding charts, seminars, websites and newsletters.
Dorsey said the organization is looking for more partners. “Why do crop industry suppliers want to get involved?” he said. “A sustainable industry means a healthy potato economy.”
Edzo Kok, executive director of the Potato Growers of Alberta and a UPGC board member, said even though UPGC has not had a lot of impact on Alberta yet, it is an important addition to the industry.
Kok said he was glad to see so many growers from southern Alberta at the meeting, as well as a few growers from the north and several industry representatives. There are “several strong messages that need to be delivered to Alberta growers and industry,” including the message of matching supply to demand to reduce oversupply and keep prices stable.
The UPGC is a year into developing a strategic planning document, with support from its parent organization, the United Potato Growers of America. The United Potato Growers movement has moved even beyond North America with the recent announcement of the United Potato Growers of Europe.
As a non-share, not-for-profit corporation set up under the Canada Corporations Act, UPGC has no statutory powers beyond what is provided for in the act. It is the provincial potato organizations with their provincial acts and regulations that hold the real power. “We’re not here to tell you what to grow and shove a quota system down your throats – I want to dispel that rumour right now,” said Dorsey.
The UPGC is a co-operative organization of associations with a board from all provinces except Newfoundland and Nova Scotia.