Prince Edward Island’s $120 million potato exports to the U.S. are suddenly at risk because the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has suspended trade due to two farms testing positive for potato wart in fall 2021.
The Hon Marie-Claude Bibeau, federal agriculture minister held a technical briefing on November 22. It was soon followed by a provincial news conference with Prince Edward Island’s premier Dennis King, flanked by the PEI Potato Boards’ general manager Greg Donald and assistant manager Brenda Simmons.
The essence of the story is that potato wart is not new. It was first discovered in 2000. The Long Term Potato Wart Domestic Management Plan, developed by the CFIA, has relied on science to assess any risks. The finding of potato wart on October 1 and 14, 2021, on two farms that had already tested positive last year and which had already been isolated was not particularly alarming to the industry.
The PEI Potato Board is now “shocked” by the CFIA’s suspension of exports. “We have faith in this plan and so should our government who developed it.”
“It is the understanding of the Potato Board that this suspension comes as a result of a request from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) under threat of implementation of a federal order. Furthermore, the USDA’s basis for this action is predicated on feedback from a segment of the American potato industry, which is advocating for this suspension. Based on the communications from our growers, dealers, exporters and staff who have had numerous contacts in the United States, it is apparent that these calls for border restrictions are not representative of the majority of American industry stakeholders and buyers who need and want PEI potatoes this marketing season.”
“This is solely a politically-based trade disruption that will limit trade in a year when potatoes are already in short supply across North America and globally….Closer to home, there will undoubtedly be layoffs and other economic impacts on PEI potato farms and packing sheds.”
The PEI Potato Board is calling for an immediate reversal of government-imposed restrictions on the movement of fresh potatoes. It notes that potato wart poses no risk to human health, and negligible risk of spreading potato wart from exports.
Given his view that the restrictions are politically motivated, the PEI premier Dennis King indicated the province will be looking to the federal government for compensation.
Source: Canadian Food Inspection Agency November 22, 2021 news release, Prince Edward Island November 22, 2021 news release.