Pumpkin shortage in the U.S. has Canada to the rescue
Friday, October 16, 2015, 4:50 PM - From pies to jack o' lanterns to lattes, pumpkins seem to be everywhere at this time of year, the true 'it gourd' of the autumn season.
But despite the abundance of pumpkin-inspired products everywhere you look, some growing regions in the United States are lacking when it comes to the real thing this year.
After seasons of heavy rain and flooding across the Midwest, the United States is facing a nationwide pumpkin shortage at a crucial time -- with Hallowe'en and the American Thanksgiving just around the corner.
So Canadian pumpkin farmers are making the best of an unfortunate situation by shipping tens of thousands of pumpkins south of the border.
Nearly 90 per cent of the U.S. supply of cooking pumpkins are grown in Illinois, Indiana and Ohio, states also affected by bouts of severe weather this past year.
While growers were prepared for a less than bumper crop this year, the national U.S. shortage is actually much worse than originally feared, according to Roz O'Hearn, spokesperson for Libby's, which packs most of the country's canned pumpkin.
As the harvest came to an end earlier this month, yield numbers were about half of what is generally needed in a season, indicating that 50 to 60 per cent of the crop was wiped out.
The results of a wet season have driven up the price of pumpkins and prompted manufacturers such as Libby's to warn that pie filling may only be available until the American Thanksgiving holiday in November.
When times are tough, farmers will turn to other states and Canada in order to make up for a shortage. The strong value of the US dollar has made sourcing pumpkins from the north an favourable prospect for American manufacturers.
Earlier this month, about 40,000 kilograms of pumpkins were shipped from Canada to one farm in Missouri.
Most of Canada's pumpkins are grown in British Columbia, Quebec and Ontario, the province that produced nearly half of Canada's 65,000 tonnes of pumpkin last year.
This year, officials have described the crop as average, with quality improving later in the season after shaky conditions at the time of planting.
But weather can still affect the vegetables heading into the final weeks of harvest, according to Elaine Roddy, crop specialist with Ontario's agriculture ministry. "Even in the next few weeks ahead, if we get into really wet conditions, things can change," said Roddy.
Pumpkin farm in Nepean, Ontario
The outcome of this year's lackluster pumpkin harvest in the U.S. is sure to recall a similar event from a few years ago -- The Great Pumpkin Shortage of 2009.
That year, record rainfall and a lack of abundant sunshine devastated states where most pumpkins used for canning are grown.
It lasted for months, limiting holiday pies and desserts and forcing consumers to use alternative recipes. Cans of Libby's signature pie filling could be found selling for up to $30 USD on eBay.
As for the pumpkins traditionally used for Hallowe'en carvings and decoration, these are widely grown in the state of Michigan. While these crops are also expected to fall a bit short this year, it won't be nearly as bad as the deficit facing canning gourds.
Source: Associated Press
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