Ending the suspension of trade in fresh potatoes from Prince Edward Island to the United States is a top priority for the Canadian government, said Federal Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau .
The trade was ordered by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency on Monday following the discovery of potatoes infected with potato wart in two fields in Prince Edward Island in October. Bibeau told CBC Island morning host Mitch Cormier, she understands how important potatoes are to the PEI economy. and even for the identity of the islanders.
âI really understand and I am working extremely hard with the team to resolve the situation as quickly as possible,â said Bibeau.
âI have no doubts that we are going to convince Americans that our fresh potatoes are safe, that they do not pose a risk to their soil, to their land. And they also desperately need our very high quality potatoes.
Warty scab disfigures potatoes and reduces crop yields, but does not pose a threat to human health. The United States classifies it as a serious threat to agriculture.
The CFIA applied the suspension to prevent a ban on the US side. Bibeau said she believed trade would resume more quickly if trade was halted on the Canadian side of the border.
“I know it hurts, but I’d rather keep control of our Canadian side than be subject to an American ban,” she said.
“They must be reassured”
Prince Edward Island farmers celebrated the best harvest in generations this year. With below-average harvests in Manitoba and Alberta, prices were also good.
The PEI Potato Board estimates the value of PEI potato exports. in the United States to $ 120 million.
At a press conference Monday, the Premier of PEI Dennis King vigorously opposed the suspension, saying it was based on politics and not science.
Bibeau said Canada must reassure its U.S. trading partner that potatoes from Prince Edward Island pose no risk of spreading potato wart.
“Science is not black or white. I think they go above and beyond and ask for too much, but, I mean, it’s still a science-based discussion that we need to have,” he said. she declared.
“They need to be reassured that even though we have found more cases on the island, our protocols are strong enough.”
These protocols may need to be strengthened, said Bibeau.
Prince Edward Island potato growers are caught off guard
Randy Visser, a potato grower and packer from Orwell Cove, Prince Edward Island, said he could never have predicted the decision.
âAll of these machines were running at full capacity, and today they are quite idle and quiet,â he said.
He said the suspension blocked Prince Edward Island from important markets on the U.S. east coast and the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico, accounting for about 70 percent of their sales and volume. This potentially has an impact on staffing and storage.
âWe have potatoes in stock and we have a schedule to ship about a million pounds per week through this plant. You can imagine how quickly this will start to come together. Eventually, we might run out of time to move those potatoes to potatoes. “
Ray Keenan, owner of Rollo Bay Holdings, said the industry could take years to recover if the suspension is not lifted quickly. About half of the produce on his farm goes to the United States.
âEveryone’s business plan was destroyed overnight,â he said.
Farmers are not the only ones affected
PEI Trucking Companies were also shocked by the news of the suspension.
âMy stomach turned,â said Scott Annear, part owner of Morley Annear Ltd., which delivers potatoes to Boston, Pennsylvania, Florida and sometimes to Texas.
âWe don’t know how long this will last. We don’t know what our options are. I’m sort of at a loss for words,â he said, noting that about a third of his business is there. ‘export to us
Tyson Kelly, owner of Bulk Carriers, said he was shocked by the news. While he has already booked to ship other products to replace this potato business, he said the loss of shipment will have additional economic impact for the province.
âThere are other products that we can ship,â Kelly said.
“For us, it is not as devastating as it is for all of our local farmers. Ultimately, it is the farmers who are most affected.”
In a statement jointly attributed to agriculture critic John Barlow and health critic Luc Berthold, the Conservative Party said the suspension was evidence of a failed trade relationship between the Liberal government. and the United States.
“In the classic liberal way, this ban was pronounced in the middle of the night, without consultation and without a plan to support the workers affected by this decision,” the statement said.
The declaration called for a detailed plan to support farmers in Prince Edward Island.
US potato growers say it’s not a “Canada vs. US” problem
Kam Quarles, CEO of the U.S. National Potato Council, said he was sympathetic to the province’s potato growers, but the suspension was necessary.
“I think anyone involved in farming anywhere in the world, at some point, will face pest and disease issues, and it’s only a matter of time,” a- he declared.
âUnfortunately, this is a very difficult situation and we hope it will be dealt with effectively – both by the CFIA and we are prepared with the United States to manage it effectively as well. “
WATCH | Prince Edward Island pledges to fight the ban on the export of potatoes:
Quarles said suspending seed potato exports was not enough on its own, and the recent detection of verrucous warts has shown there are additional routes for the fungus to enter American fields.
He said the situation was far more complicated than just a “kind of trade dispute”.
âSome people wanted to make this a problem between Canada and the United States,â Quarles said. âEconomically, it doesn’t help the United States at all.
âOur people need PEI seeds. We process PEI potatoes. in the USA. This is by no means a problem that benefits the United States.
The council said in a statement Monday that the spread of the fungus on U.S. farms could threaten their access to international fresh potato markets, costing the U.S. industry more than $ 225 million in annual sales.
No incident of the spread of potato wart
The warty wart was first discovered on the island in 2000.
Measures have been put in place to control its spread, including restrictions if the fungus is detected in a field.
“No production of potatoes, including seed, table or processing potatoes, is permitted. No other multiplication crops are permitted in this field,” said Dr Carolyn Sanford of the Department of PEI Agriculture
The soil cannot be moved, and all equipment and vehicles must be cleaned and disinfected before they can leave the field.
There have been more than 30 incidents of potato wart on the island since then, but the PEI Potato Board said there had not been a single incident of the fungus spreading elsewhere from potatoes in the Isle.
Canada has suspended trade in Prince Edward Island seed potatoes in connection with the October discovery earlier this month and knows there is a threat to potato exports. fresh earth for about a week.
He held the government of PEI. aware of the situation, Bibeau said. She said she had three talks with U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack last week and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau discussed the issue with President Joe Biden at a meeting in Washington last week.
In a statement posted on Twitter late Monday, Cardigan MP Lawrence MacAulay, Prince Edward Island’s representative to the federal cabinet, called the situation “absolutely unfair to our Prince Island farmers. -Edouard â.
But he agreed with Bibeau that it was better for the CFIA to act rather than having to face a ban on the American side.