Stuffed Baked Potato - Detail - ©

‘Bud The Spud’ Has Moved From PEI To Alberta!

A massive psychic and cultural shift is being forced on Canadians. PEI is no longer the spud capital of the land. It’s a development I never thought I’d see in my lifetime. But the Island Province can still be proud of its reputation for quality…

Who’d of thunk it?

Canadians all know the saga of Bud The Spud, from the Bright Red Mud. The classic Prince Edward Island Potato, “Rollin’ down the highway” toward Central Canada. So ran the late, great Stompin’ Tom Connors’ classic tribute to what was the potato capital of the nation. But now, PEI has been overtaken and passed by Alberta as the biggest potato producer in the land.

It’s true. The western province already know for the Rockies, grass-fed beef, petro products and wheat is now the leading producer, by volume, of potatoes in Canada. By a skin.

According to a recent edition of the CBC Podcast Good Question, “According to the most recent report by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Alberta produced 21.8 per cent of Canadian potatoes in 2022 — just 0.2 per cent more than P.E.I. – But Manitoba is also hot on [their] heels at 21.3 per cent.”

Market upheaval

It’s no surprise to the current stewards of 5th and 6th generation PEI potato farms that the old regime is passing away. The PEI Potato Board says the island province has just about planted the past square metre of land it has available for farming. And it was inevitable that some other, larger jurisdiction would eclipse them.

But there’s a pressure play simmering in the greater North American potato market. Idaho, the biggest spud producer in the US, has been planting more acres in recent years, to answer significant growth in the demand for french fries. Alberta and PEI are both pushing back against a US effort to export more cheap potatoes to Canada.

The big picture

On a global basis, Canada remains a Top 20 player, coming in at 12th spot among international potato producers. But we’re way behind the leaders. China takes first place harvesting more than 88,000 tonnes a year, 4 times more than the US, and 17 times more than Canada.

If that stat is depressing to Canadian patriots, consider this… We rank a respectable 4th among world potato exporters, after France, the Netherlands and Germany.

In case you were wondering…

Deep in the 2022-2023 Canada Potato Market Information Review, on page 14, a couple of telling statistics are revealed. Canadians, on average, eat 3.65 kg / 8.03 lb. of potato chips a year. That’s the equivalent of 18 large (200g) bags. And we each consume 4.12 kg / 9.06 lb of frozen potatoes a year – as fries, wedges, hash browns and other spud forms consumed in the home. That’s 4 large bags of frozen fries for every man, woman and child.

But that’s nothing compared to the potatoes we eat away from home: 11.78 kg / 25.91 lb. per Cana-dian. That’s total restaurant-served spuds. Mainly fries, shovelled at us by the Fast Food joints. And it translates to more than 107 medium orders of McDonald’s french fries!

My take

I have to make a point, here, that Canadian potatoes – especially the iconic PEI varieties – have long been lauded for their quality, flavour  and keeping properties. If nothing else, that proves PEI Potato Board did a fantastic job of promoting its product over the decades during which it was the undisputed Potato Capital of Canada…

~ Maggie J.