The move is described as “solely a politically motivated trade disruption” by the provincial potato board.
Premier Dennis King stated that the P.E.I. administration would pursue all legal avenues available to it in order to overturn the Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s decision to suspend fresh potato exports from the province to the United States.
The detection of potato warts on two Island farms in October prompted the suspension of seed potato exports to the United States on November 2. The CFIA said earlier Monday that the prohibition had been expanded to include all fresh P.E.I. potatoes in a press statement. The federal government’s decision, according to King, is “very disheartening” and will have a significant negative impact on the Island’s economy.
“The consequences of this decision will be measured in the hundreds of millions of dollars, affecting the lives of people from Tignish to Souris and everywhere in between,” he stated at a press conference on Monday.
“The value of the potato industry in Prince Edward Island is equivalent to the value of the auto industry in Ontario, the forest industry in British Columbia, and the oil and gas industry in Alberta, and it is inconceivable that a Canadian minister could do this with a stroke of a pen in the face of good science and historical protocol.”
King promised to “fight this bad judgment” and said the province would actively negotiate with the federal government for “significant” compensation.
Meanwhile, P.E.I. Agriculture Minister Bloyce Thompson announced that the province would establish a $10 million emergency contingency fund to address the immediate needs of Island farmers, including crisis management resources and assistance with any costs associated with dealing with the impact of potato wart.
Potato wart disfigures potatoes and lower yield, rendering them unmarketable, yet it poses no health risk to humans. The fungus is incredibly long-lived, and it can take up to 40 years for it to completely depart the soil.
Potatoes that have already been processed, such as frozen french fries, are exempt from the ban. Before being shipped, fresh potatoes are brushed and rinsed to remove any soil that could transport the fungus.