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Old Wed, Jan-21-04, 11:38
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Default "Atkins and South Beach diet hurting potato growers"

Wednesday, January 21, 2004

Atkins and South Beach diet hurting potato growers


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CHARLOTTETOWN--The Island's potato industry has faced hard times before, but rarely have prospects been this bleak, says Ivan Noonan, general manager of the P.E.I. Potato Board.
Overseas shipments have shrivelled up and the number of truckloads crossing the Confederation Bridge for destinations in the U.S. and Central Canada, have plunged by more than 1,400 over the same period last year.

Overproduction is the worst problem, but growers are facing something else that is taking a big chunk out of their sales - the continued, and growing, popularity of low-carb diets such as the South Beach and Atkins diet, said Noonan.

By some accounts the diets have led to a reduction in consumption of potato products in the U.S., including french fries, of as much as 10 per cent.

Bread has also taken a hit.

Growers in Idaho have committed $2 million towards a campaign to fight the "myths and half-truths" perpertuated by proponents of the diets, said Noonan, adding science has shown that people who stick to the diets for long periods of time suffer health consequences.

The National Potato Council, meanwhile, has committed more than $4 million.

The Island's 550 plus growers aren't in a position to launch a similar campaign, said Noonan.

"We don't have the money," he said, adding a marketing campaign was recently organized for Toronto and other major Central Canadian markets.

Noonan stressed overproduction and lack of overseas markets remain the larger problem for the Island's 550 plus growers, and he is confident that fad diets, such as the Atkins diet, will run their course.

It would be nice, he admitted, if that happened sooner, rather than later.
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