Same bang for the buck

Pota­toes are one com­mod­ity with con­sis­tent prices com­pared to last year, or year be­fore

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - FRONT PAGE - BY KEVIN MACISAAC Kevin MacIsaac is gen­eral man­ager, United Potato Grow­ers of Canada

Pota­toes are one com­mod­ity with con­sis­tent prices com­pared to last year or year be­fore.

The price that con­sumers pay for many kinds of pro­duce has greatly in­creased over the past year. Food an­a­lysts point in par­tic­u­lar, to im­ported pro­duce, greatly af­fected by the low­est ex­change rate ex­pe­ri­enced by the Cana­dian Looney in 12 years.

Pota­toes, how­ever, are one com­mod­ity with con­sis­tent prices com­pared to last year or even the year be­fore. So why is it that at the potato stand in the pro­duce aisle, pota­toes cost ap­prox­i­mately the same as they did a year ago at this time?

A cou­ple of rea­sons are ev­i­dent: pota­toes are of­ten used by the pro­duce cat­e­gory in the gro­cery store to at­tract cus­tomers into the store. Dis­plays are usu­ally at the front of the su­per­mar­ket catch­ing your eye as you en­ter af­ter pick­ing up your cart.

Pota­toes are one of the top earn­ing cat­e­gories con­tribut­ing to the profit mar­gin of the retail gro­cery chains. Re­tail­ers do this by keep­ing the retail price con­sis­tent and com­pet­i­tive with other stores.

What does change, how­ever, is the price paid to the pri­mary pro­duc­ers — the peo­ple who ac­tu­ally grew the pota­toes.

Much to the cha­grin of the grow­ers, it is of­ten dif­fi­cult to raise the price of pota­toes paid by na­tional chains.

Gro­cers get used to pay­ing lower prices for their con­sumer bags in years of over sup­ply, and it be­comes dif­fi­cult to raise that price in years where sup­ply matches de­mand or even when de­mand ex­ceeds sup­ply.

When pota­toes are ad­ver­tised on spe­cial in gro­cery store fly­ers (“on ad”) gro­cery stores of­ten ask ship­pers to pro­vide the food at a lower price so that retail mar­gins can be main­tained.

Nu­tri­tion­ally, shop­pers also have to re­al­ize that pota­toes are a pretty good bang for your buck; more potas­sium than a ba­nana helps the heart and zero grams of fat (un­less you add a top­ping to it) helps the waist­line. It has been proven over time that pota­toes have the abil­ity to feed fam­i­lies in times of eco­nomic down­turn.

We live in an in­ter­est­ing world. Oil is the back­bone of our Cana­dian econ­omy yet to­day a bar­rel of oil is worth $27.51, while a bucket of chicken from a fast food restau­rant is worth $28.75.

So sat­isfy your own cu­rios­ity. The next time you’re in your fa­vorite gro­cery store, ask your pro­duce manger what a bag of sim­i­lar brand spuds was worth a year ago. If it is $4.99/10lb. this year, it likely was $4.99/10lb. last year.

The re­ally neat thing about fresh Cana­dian pota­toes in 2016 is that the sup­ply is very well matched to your needs — not too many, but not a short­age ei­ther.

As you wheel your cart around ex­plor­ing all the pur­chase op­tions for a food ex­pe­ri­ence for your fam­ily, don’t for­get about the op­por­tu­nity that Cana­dian spuds pro­vide for you across the coun­try — all the way from P.E.I. to B.C.

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