It Takes More than You Think to Keep the Food System Running During a Pandemic

Shopper walks through empty aisle of potato chips (Martijn Baudoin, unsplash)

Background

  • Table Potatoes: sold in the veggies section at Costco or Walmart. Commonly oval-long shaped and brown or round and colorful
  • Fry Potatoes: Typically oval to long in shape, bred to be sliced long-ways into fries. Similar and often times (but not always) the same varieties as table Potatoes
  • Chipping Potatoes: rounder in shape, often times white, and bred to be shaved and fried while maintaining their light color
  • Seed Potatoes: most potatoes don’t come from seeds, they come from “seed potatoes” i.e. they come from other potatoes bred and grown specifically to be chopped up and used for seed. This is why your potatoes sprout when you leave them out too long!

The First Domino: Shut Down Decimates Food Service Sales

“Distribution centers and transportation routes are filled with finished product. Cold storage inventories are approaching maximum levels. Processing plants are throttling back and changing product mix to hold down inventories. Some observers believe that most North American processing capacity focused on food service sales, including quick-service restaurants (QSRs), could shut down within 2–3 weeks, due to lack of space for finished product.”

Keeping Grocery Store Shelves Stocked at all Costs

“One of our growers who also packs fresh potatoes for retail sale called to discuss their situation. They were scared that their spouse, children, and close family members could potentially be exposed to this virus and die. They had a real gut check moment, a moment of heroism in my book, and decided to continue to protect their workers and family members as best as they could while deciding to continue to meet the demand for potatoes by scared consumers, even though it meant putting their entire business and family in jeopardy.”

The Oversupply

(marjanblan, Unsplash)

Contract Cuts and Reallocating Acres

Seed Potato Growers Left Holding The Bag

Facebook post from a potato farmer in Idaho “FREE POTATOES — We started dumping potatoes today as we have no home for them because of this Covid 19 disaster. The potato supply chain has definitely been turned up side down.”

The Current State of the Industry — No Such Thing as Static

The Value of Resilience — Thriving Despite Adversity

References:

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Accelerating climate resilience in food, water, and energy www.climate.ai

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Accelerating climate resilience in food, water, and energy www.climate.ai

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