P.E.I.'s potato industry had to scramble this month to respond to demand that changed seemingly overnight when COVID-19 was declared a pandemic.
"The last two or three weeks have been anything but typical in the potato world," said Greg Donald, general manager of the P.E.I. Potato Board.
"We all saw those images online and in the news and across the country where store shelves were becoming bare, and particularly of some essential items, and potatoes was one of them."
Packers of fresh potatoes on the Island had to work long hours, sometimes putting on extra shifts to fill the sudden demand, said Donald.
And it wasn't just the farmers and packers who suddenly found themselves busy, he said.
"Every link in that distribution chain is really fragile," Donald said of the sudden surge in demand.
"So far, so good, and hats off to a lot of people who are making it happen: truck drivers, folks on our farms, and workers at the packing sheds. They've been really stepping up."
While demand for fresh potatoes surged demand for processed potatoes — such as french fries — fell significantly, he said. Restaurants are a major customer for these products, and their business has suffered as people across North America are being told to stay home.
Donald said the initial crush of demand for fresh product has slowed. The situation continues to change, and it is too early to say what impact the pandemic will have on the year as a whole.
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