Poor growing weather in overseas potato-growing regions should create more export opportunities for growers of Prince Edward Island potatoes, officials and grower-shippers said.

Production in Russia, which has been plagued with drought, could be down by as much as 50%, said Greg Donald, general manager of the Charlottetown-based Prince Edward Island Potato Board.

Considering that Russia typically ships about 30 million tons of spuds a year, the affect on the world market will likely be significant, Donald said. Especially since production also is down throughout western Europe.

Gary Linkletter, co-owner of Linkletter Farms Ltd., Summerside, Prince Edward Island, agreed that what happens in western Europe and Russia will affect demand for Prince Edward Island and other North America crops.

“Russia in particular is quite a disaster,” he said Oct. 21. “We had an inquiry today from Russia.”

Linkletter Farms is not licensed to export, but Linkletter was fairly certain spuds the company sells to others will wind up in Russia and other export markets this season.

Shipments to traditional southern markets like Puerto Rico and areas of the Caribbean should be strong this year for Prince Edward Island shippers in general, Linkletter said.

Markets that haven’t been as popular in recent markets likely will be this season.

“I hear that Trinidad is interested, and we haven’t had boats there for a long time,” he said.

For PEI, the problems in Europe should mean a boost in exports to the Caribbean, which typically imports significant volumes from Europe, Donald said.

As far as shipping more spuds to Europe to help fill the gap created by the poor growing weather, Donald said North American demand is likely to be so strong, PEI growers won’t likely have the spuds to ship.

Brian Beaton, potato coordinator for the Prince Edward Island Department of Agriculture, Charlottetown, agreed growing problems in Russian and Europe will likely open the export door wider for island growers.

“There are some markets that we go into that other countries won’t be able to go into as much this season,” he said.