PE Ledger

Farmers on Prince Edward Island are ‘losing money day by day as a result of the potato export issue

Potato wart has re-closed the U.S. border after 20 years of successful control.

Farmers on Prince Edward Island have been unable to trade their potatoes into the United States for 5 days, resulting in a loss of sales for both large and small farms.

The suspension came as a surprise to farmers. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency implemented it on Monday (CFIA). That was done, according to Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau, to prevent the Americans from adopting the same thing, which would be more difficult to undo.

The finding of potato wart in two P.E.I. farms in October has alarmed the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Last Friday evening, farmers received word from the CFIA that it might be coming.

On that day, Deanna Gaudet had planned a 60th birthday celebration for her father, who produces potatoes in eastern P.E.I., but it morphed into something entirely different around the table.

“He and my two brothers, who farm with him, were all on a conference call around the kitchen table, listening to the news that was to come,” Gaudet added.

“We still partied a little, but our hearts were a little heavier.”

The value of the U.S. fresh potato market, which is the subject of this suspension, is estimated to be $120 million every year, according to the P.E.I. Potato Board.

Layoffs coming

With Thanksgiving coming up this current week and Christmas approaching, this is a busy time of year for potato sales.

Keisha Rose Topic, who also farms potatoes in eastern Prince Edward Island and runs a potato packer alongside Gaudet’s brothers, said every day the border is blocked is costly.

“We’re losing money every day because everything is closed,” Rose Topic remarked.

“We don’t want to see this continue on for a week or a month.”

Rose Topic said her farm primarily serves Canadian markets; however, her American market is expanding. Her main worry is for the packing plant, which employs 33 people and services around two dozen farms. It presently operates two shifts, but she believes that if the border is not opened within a week, one of those shifts will have to be eliminated.

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