PEI Potato Exports to US Resume Effective Immediately

Table potato exports from Prince Edward Island to the United States will resume effective immediately.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) modified its requirements for importing table potatoes from PEI on Friday.

The news comes after an announcement by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency last week that the agency would lift its ban on exporting PEI table potatoes or eating potatoes, but not seeds or processed potatoes, with conditions.

The Minister of Agriculture, Marie-Claude Bibeau, spoke with Main Street host Matt Rainnie on Friday afternoon, shortly after the news broke.

“It’s good news for our common table potatoes to see the open market for the mainland in the US,” Bibeau said.

“The potato industry is so important, it’s part of your identity… when we can see [potatoes] leaving the island and going to the US is going to be great.”

Island farmers have said an estimated 300 million pounds of potatoes would have to be destroyed this winter.

Friday’s announcement also means bags shipped to Puerto Rico will no longer have to be labeled, Bibeau said, and shipments will no longer be limited in size.

Alex Docherty of Skye View Farms and his father watch as a truck full of potatoes is dumped into a field to destroy it. Island farmers have said they expected to destroy an estimated 300 million pounds of potatoes this winter. (Submitted by Alex Docherty)

“Now we can ship these potatoes in containers or in bulk as well, so that’s good news for… the farmers on the island.”

Seed potato exports are still not expected to resume until 2023. Bibeau said the investigation is ongoing and Ottawa will continue to work with seed growers to see how they can be supported in the meantime.

“It’s extremely difficult for seed growers, but let’s take the good news for today’s table growers,” he said.

“Seed potatoes are meant to be planted, so the risk to them is higher, that’s why we need to complete the investigation. We will continue to work closely, see how we can support them in terms of last year’s loss, and also see what opportunities may have and how we can support it…we will work together to find a clear path forward.”

Conditions for import

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

“It is extremely difficult for seed producers, but let’s take the good news for table cattle producers today,” says Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food Marie-Claude Bibeau. (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press)

Other conditions state that PEI potatoes must be:

  • Washed and germinated.
  • Rated to meet US No. 1 standard.
  • Officially inspected by Canada’s National Plant Protection Organization and certified to meet USDA requirements.

Shipments of fresh potatoes to the United States and its territory of Puerto Rico, and eventually to the rest of Canada, were suspended following the discovery of potato wart in two fields on the island in October.

The CFIA stopped shipments of seed and table potatoes to the US in November, prompted by a US threat that it would act if Canada did not. Canadian officials worried that a US action would be more difficult to reverse.

Wart is a fungus that disfigures potatoes so they are unmarketable and reduces yields, but does not pose a health risk to humans.

We will believe it all and see it all when the loads start heading south and arrive at the border, at the destination where people are looking for them.— John Visser

John Visser, president of the PEI Potato Board, said farmers are relieved they can resume shipments to the U.S. He said orders are already starting to come in.

“I guess this just shows that the science worked all along,” he said.

“Hopefully there are no surprises. We will believe it all and see it all when the loads start going south and arrive at the border, at the destination where people are looking for them.”

The PEI Potato Board estimates that trade with the US would have been $120 million this season.

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