Cavendish Farms Hit Hard by COVID-19 Restaurant Closures
Cavendish Farms has advised the Prince Edward Island (P.E.I.) potato producers that are under contract to supply the company with spuds, to “sell to other markets if they can,” as the company deals with a sharp drop in demand for its product in the wake of COVID-19-related restaurant closures.
“These are unprecedented times,” company Spokesperson Mary Keith said for CBC.ca. “While food remains an essential item for everyone, we have seen a significant drop in the demand for French fries as a result of Coronavirus (COVID-19) and the closure of restaurants in favor of take out and drive-thru only. This has meant curtailments of production at Cavendish Farms in New Annan,” Keith added.
The drop in production means the company now faces an excess of potatoes. Cavendish Farms operates two processing facilities in New Annan, and is the biggest private employer on P.E.I., with close to 700 people when operating at peak capacity. According to the company’s website it is the fourth-largest potato processor in North America, with facilities in Canada and the US.
The company is currently in negotiations with Island potato growers through the P.E.I. Potato Board on a new contract, and stated that efforts were being made to relocate workers from one of the two New Annan plants to the other, and that “regrettably this situation is not unique to New Annan, the Island or Cavendish Farms.”
Two years ago, Cavendish Farms announced it was closing its facility for packaging fresh potatoes in O’Leary due to a lack of potatoes. At the time, the company said it would focus on frozen potato processing at its plants in New Annan. In the past, Cavendish Farms had talked about a lack of local potatoes for its P.E.I. processing operations, having to source potatoes from as far away as Alberta and Idaho.
The coronavirus outbreak “is creating a rapidly changing environment. Governments have recognized food production as an essential service. During these challenging times, we are doing everything possible to ensure we keep producing food for our customers and your family,” the company says on its website.