Prince Edward Island potato growers call for end of trade suspension, but US officials want more data
Farmers in Prince Edward Island say there is no justification for a suspension of potato exports from PEI to the United States and that it must be lifted now, but Canadian officials say the United States is asking for more information.
“It was our own government that put in place the suspension. We need this suspension to be lifted, ”PEI Potato Board Executive Director Greg Donald said in an interview on Tuesday. “There is no science that says our fresh potatoes can’t just go away.”
Canada has banned shipments of fresh potatoes from PEI. in the United States on November 22 following the discovery of potato wart in two fields. The fungal parasite is spread by movement of infected potatoes, soil and farm equipment. It poses no threat to human health, but leaves potatoes disfigured and can drastically reduce crop yields.
“We are in the eighth week,” said Donald. “We’re at about $ 20 million in terms of lost business in the United States. Our producers are becoming extremely anxious and frustrated that there has not been a resolution yet. “
At the time of the suspension, Federal Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau said if Canada had not issued the suspension voluntarily, the Americans would have imposed their own ban.
A press release issued by the minister’s office last week says the United States is blocking imports and Canada must provide the technical data to show the potatoes are safe.
“On November 22, the United States Department of Agriculture instructed its border services to reject all shipments of seed, consumption and processing potatoes from PEI. information to reassure the United States, they cannot certify PEI potatoes because they do not meet US requirements under plant protection regulations, ”the statement read .
A technical meeting between the CFIA and the US Department of Agriculture is scheduled for Wednesday to discuss the situation, but officials in the minister’s office say it could take until 2023 to provide all information requested by states- United.
The CFIA completed a national wart scabies investigation in December and no warty scabies were found. The survey included soil tests across Canada in areas that grow seed potatoes.
“There are no problems in our fields outside of the regulated fields. This is a really important point. There was no justification to start. The investigation is further evidence that asserts it,” Donald said.
But an official in the federal minister’s office who provided background information said only 178 soil samples in the survey came from Prince Edward Island and only from fields where potatoes are grown. of seed. He said the United States wanted to see thousands of samples.
Just before Christmas, Minister Bibeau announced $ 28 million in funding to support PEI potato growers. affected by the trade disruption.
Donald said funding is insufficient, and while farmers are optimistic about lifting the suspension or finding new markets, it is predicted that they will soon have to start destroying the potatoes they have. in stock.
“If there is no change at the border, they are going to have to destroy the potatoes,” Donald said. “It’s a big decision to make.”
Industry estimates that Prince Edward Island’s fresh potato exports to the United States this year would have cost about $ 120 million.
Federal officials point out that the trade in processed potatoes, such as French fries and frozen crisps, is not affected by the trade suspension. In 2020, Prince Edward Island’s processed potato exports to the United States were valued at $ 370.8 million.
Meanwhile, a social media campaign launched by the Island’s potato industry is generating some backlash in Puerto Rico, which receives a quarter of Prince Island’s annual potato exports. -Edouard to the United States. Without the shipments, potatoes are scarce and prices go up. The campaign urges people to pressure their local politicians and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
Puerto Rico typically gets 80 to 85 percent of its potatoes from Prince Edward Island.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published on January 11, 2022.