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PEI: Potato industry in limbo after shipments suspended

FLY NORTH – Millions of pounds of potatoes really ‘got nowhere’ for a Prince Edward Island farmer following the federal government’s recent decision to suspend shipments of all fresh potatoes from the province to the United States.

Like many in the province, Ray Keenan, co-owner of Rollo Bay Holdings Ltd., is trying to figure out the reasons behind the suspension, which came in response to an October finding by the Clearing Authority. Food Canada Survey (CFIA) on potato warts in two PEI schools.

About 40% of Rollo Bay’s crop is destined for the US, which equates to about 120 million pounds of potatoes.

“The reality is all sides are going to work this out, both Canada and the US,” Keenan told CTV’s Your Morning on Wednesday.

“I really think there’s a bit of an overkill here in the way that everything has happened and hasn’t been tied yet.”

Federal Minister of Agriculture and Food and Agriculture Marie-Claude Bibeau on Sunday signed a ministerial order restricting the transport of seed potatoes from PEI CFIA has also suspended the trade of fresh potatoes from PEI to the US.

Political and industry leaders in the province have heavily criticized the decision, pointing out not only the economic impact of the trade suspension but also the measures currently in place to manage acne cases. rice in potatoes, since the fungus was first identified in PEI more than 20 years ago.

Ottawa has said if Canada doesn’t suspend shipments, the US will.

Potato wart does not pose a threat to human health but reduces crop yields.

‘WE HAVE NO CLEAR ANSWER’

Keenan said its US customers extend into the eastern seaboard and beyond the US territory of Puerto Rico.

“Our Canadian suppliers are doing very well with us right now, our customer base is doing all it can for us, our neighboring provinces are doing all we can. Try to help as best you can,” he said.

At the same time, however, Keenan said this is putting “chaos” into a supply chain “very attached to the United States.”

“So it’s definitely a major disruption to the industry as a whole,” he said.

The US market represents an annual value of $120 million, the Prince Edward Island Potato Board said in a recent statement.

The council said that since the discovery of warts in potatoes on the island in 2000, there has not been any market – Canada or the US – related to PEI potatoes.

The board said two potato wart finds in October were also found in fields that had been regulated through the CFIA management plan, meaning those potatoes were already ineligible. to be shipped to any market outside the island, including Canada and the US.

“On that point, here’s the frustrating part about it, because we don’t have a definite answer to what the present is different from then,” Keenan said.

‘Try to Speak Least’

PEI Premier Dennis King took aim at the federal government over his decision, calling it “a knee-jerk reaction” and “confusing to say the least” in an interview with CTV Atlantic’s Steve Murphy.

He described the $1.3 billion potato industry in his province as comparable to the automotive sector in Ontario, the forestry sector in BC, and the oil and gas sector in Alberta.

The federal government has highlighted support programs for PEI potato growers affected by the suspension, while the provincial government recently announced a $10 million contingency fund.

But with US Thanksgiving this week and Christmas next month, and the PEI case doing well compared to the US crops, King told CTV Atlantic no government program would be able to. replace the province’s most important industry.

“These are not rapeseeds, these are fresh, perishable products, and if they don’t move and aren’t eaten, they need to be destroyed, and that would just be a terribly tragic event, terrible for a great, glorious event and said King.

Speaking to CTV’s Power Play on Monday, King said the management program, developed with the CFIA and approved by the US Department of Agriculture, works and is accepted as science.

“This is the Canadian government that did this, this is not the United States, the Canadian government did this to the island potato farmers and potentially devastated our most important economic sector.” , he said.

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