Crops yielding 25 tonnes per, said to be amongst best ever

Amidst concerns over a potential pumpkin shortage, Alberta government officials are calling this year one of the most successful growing seasons ever.

Eastern Canada has suffered from poor crops due to flooding and the damaging effects of Hurricane Irene. Some news reports seemingly link Alberta’s increased pumpkin exports to needy eastern sellers, which creates fear there may not be enough local supply.

However, fears over a great pumpkin shortage are unfounded, said Alberta Agriculture spokeswoman Nikki Booth. She said a stronger-than-usual growing season has created excess wait to supply the east and stock local shelves.

“We don’t have a pumpkin shortage in Alberta,” Booth said. “I know there’s a pumpkin shortage out east, but here in Alberta we grow quite a few pumpkins in the southern part of the province.

“The shortage down east has created quite a bit of buzz because I think a lot of people think we receive our pumpkins from down east,” she added. “In fact, it’s a lot of our pumpkins that go out east.”

Booth said southern Alberta produced 193 acres of pumpkins this year. With farmers yielding 25 tonnes per acre, she added several farmers describe this year as the best they’ve ever had.

Others aren’t as convinced.

“Is there a pumpkin shortage? We don’t know,” said Bill Alberts, a pumpkin farmer from Brooks, Alta. “At this time last year there were absolutely no pumpkins available in Alberta. None, because of the terrible growing season we had last year.

“This year there are 10 times more pumpkins around, but is it enough? That is the question,” added Alberts, who often sells at the Calgary Farmers’ Market.

According to Alberts, two of the province’s major pumpkin distributors have already sent their entire inventories to commercial retailers.

He also said many parents hold off buying their jack-o-lanterns because it “creates mayhem” with their anxious children. Alberts predicted families are going to be active this weekend.

“I think there will be a pumpkin shortage,” he said.

Dan Suoto, who also works at the Calgary Farmers’ Market, said he hasn’t had any problems purchasing pumpkins, although he did say prices are up around 10 to 15 cents per pound this year.

Suoto said a shortage could create serious problems for vendors who would have to increase their prices.

“No one wants to pay too much for a pumpkin,” he said.

Last weekend, customers were seen purchasing pumpkins for as cheap as $2 and as expensive as $10.

bweismiller@cjournal.ca