Mixed reactions from PEI potato growers as US border reopens to exports

The PEI Potato Board says PEI potato growers can expect strong demand for Island potatoes now that the U.S. border has reopened to some stocks.

It was announced late Friday afternoon that Island potato shipments would resume immediately.

Island producers had a meeting with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency on Saturday to ask questions about the process, said council chief executive Greg Donald.

“We are very pleased to be able to deliver PEI potatoes to our customers and there has been a strong demand,” said Donald.

As the U.S. threatened to take action, the CFIA halted cross-border shipments of seed and table potatoes in November due to potato wart concerns. Canadian officials feared that a U.S. action would be harder to reverse.

“It’s of course with mixed feelings because we’ve had 100% confidence in the safety of our potatoes since day one,” says Greg Donald, CEO of the PEI Potato Board. (Radio Canada)

Donald said and he hopes the table potatoes will leave the island for the United States early next week.

“It is of course with mixed feelings, as we have had 100% confidence in the safety of our potatoes from day one. We felt this should never have happened, but we were certainly very happy to be able to resume shipments.”

Boyd Rose, who runs East Point Potato, feels the same way, especially when looking at the shipping rules highlighted by the CFIA.

“We’re excited to be doing it again,” he said. “At the same time, we’re having mixed reactions after being closed for over four months, and when we see the shipping requirements next Monday, they’re very similar to what we were doing in October and November.”

Boyd Rose is a potato grower and packer. (Boyd Rose/Zoom)

The CFIA said last week that the United States would require that PEI potatoes, as well as the seed potatoes used to produce them, “come from fields that are not not known to be infested with potato warts or associated with known infestations”.

Other conditions stipulate that PEI potatoes. have to be :

  • Washed and crushed.
  • Rated to meet US Standard #1.
  • Officially inspected by Canada’s National Plant Protection Organization and certified to meet USDA requirements.

“[We’re] glad everyone worked to get the job done, but you can’t make up for lost time,” Rose said.

Prince Edward Island growers have already had to destroy millions of pounds of potatoes since the border was closed to U.S. exports in November, but demand is high. Rose has been receiving calls from the United States since the announcement was made on Friday afternoon, he said.

Canadian Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau said seed potato shipments are not expected to resume until 2023.

Donald would like this to increase.

“Seed potatoes still cannot be exported out of Prince Edward Island. We will therefore look forward to focusing our attention on science and resuming exports of our seed potatoes as soon as possible as well,” he said.

Alex Docherty runs Sky View Farms. (Tony Davis/CBC)

Alex Docherty, who runs Sky View Farms, is happy for those selling table stock, but he’s selling seed potatoes and the resumption of selling table stock in the United States isn’t doing anything for his business, did he declare.

“We are still prohibited from selling seed in our own country as well as in the United States, so we are sitting on seed bins that will eventually be given to cows,” he said.

“We are completely out of the game this year and according to the minister we are probably out for another year.”

Even though the seed potato ban was lifted immediately – many of his customers have gone elsewhere for seed this year and the farm has already lost an entire season, Docherty said.