PE Ledger

On P.E.I., potato packers are attempting to keep workers on the job

Potato workers

‘It will have an impact on a lot of people’s cash flow throughout the Christmas season.’

On P.E.I., many potato packing operations are operating at a quarter of their typical capacity, and some have completely shut down.

Supervisors at the ones that are still open are attempting to spread out the work so that as many people are able to work.

Following the detection of potato warts in two Island fields on Nov. 21, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency suspended U.S. trade in fresh P.E.I. potatoes.

Mid Isle Farms in Albany, P.E.I., is packing potatoes for Canadian consumers, but 60% of their sales so far this year have been south of the border, and they expect that to continue, if not increase.

“I’m here every day, but we’re having trouble keeping the workers occupied. We’ve probably lost 60% of our business in the United States, so it’s had an impact on the company “Dave Masters, an eight-year production supervisor at Mid Isle Farms, agreed.

Potato workers

“We have people who have been here for 30 years, and many of them have been here for seven or eight years. They want to stay here and keep themselves busy. So, certainly, it’s a challenge.”

There is not enough work.

When the production line is busy, Masters said there are generally between 27 and 30 personnel on the line, but they are currently down to 17 or 18.

He said that the remainder had been sent home due to a lack of work.

“Right now, I think they’re either looking for a job or waiting to be called back when business gets up again,” Masters explained.

“Hopefully, they have EI or something like to fall back on for the time being. Aside from that, the shutdown is causing us a lot of problems because we can’t keep everyone engaged.”

The timing is particularly awful, according to Masters, as it occurs right before Christmas.

“The holiday time is a busy time for us, usually two to three weeks before Christmas, we are pretty busy,” Masters explained. “That definitely is affecting us right now, we are down to half a staff.”

“It will have an impact on many people’s cash flow throughout the Christmas season. We were on our way to put in a lot of time. People would make more money right before Christmas, which will not happen.”

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