Wart gall: the consequences are still being felt a year later

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Wart gall: the consequences are still being felt a year later

< p class="styled__StyledLegend-sc-v64krj-0 cfqhYM">Producers in Prince Edward Island destroyed an estimated 136 million kilograms of potatoes in February 2022 that they were unable to sell, in due to the suspension of exports to the United States.

Potato growers in Prince Edward Island are still feeling the impact of the suspension of exports to the United States a year later.

The federal government has announced the suspension on November 21, 2021 because potato wart was detected in two fields in the province.

Canada's Minister of Agriculture, Marie-Claude Bibeau, explained at the time that it was a precautionary measure because the United States was threatening to ban the importation of potatoes itself. land and that it would have been more difficult in such a case to re-establish this trade.

The export to the United States of ware potatoes from the Island of Prince Edward Island was permitted again on April 1, but the sale of the province's seed potatoes outside of Prince Edward Island remains prohibited.

Farmers lost $50 million in sales, the PEI Potato Board estimates. About 136 million kilograms of unsold potatoes were shredded or used to feed livestock instead of humans.

The potato wart is a fungus that disfigures potatoes and reduces the yield of the fields, but it does not threaten human health.

It was devastating for us. We are very dependent on the American market. We do 25% of our business directly in the United States, says Andrew Smith of the Smith Farm in Newton.

The family farm could not honor its contract with a American company and they lost that customer,” says Smith. The customer had no guarantee that the situation would not happen again and he could not run this risk.

Mr. Smith is sorry to have lost this client that his farm had been doing business with for 12 years. The pill, he says, is hard to swallow when you have no control over the situation.

His family resigned themselves to shredding more than 2.7 million kilograms of unsold potatoes due to the suspension of exports.

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Prince Edward Island growers have had to destroy millions of kilos of unsaleable potatoes.

Andrew Smith wants changes to the Canadian Inspection Agency foods in the fight against potato wart. He says he feels his leaders don't understand the plight of farmers.

I think we should check how other parts of the world act when they have this problem, and see if what works for them can work here, says agriculture.

It hopes he will be able to sell his potatoes in the United States again one day.

Alex Docherty of Skye View Farm in Elmwood says his warehouses are full of seed potatoes harvested this fall. He still can't sell them outside of Prince Edward Island.

Docherty says he fears the ban will continue. The situation is frustrating, he says, because he doesn't know what to say to his customers outside, especially in Ontario, who ask him when they can order again.

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Farmer Alex Docherty of Skye View Farm in Prince Edward Island says his warehouses are full of seed potatoes harvested this fall and he still can't sell them to the outside the province.

The most distressing thing for his family was the potato chipping. It's unforgettable. I hope I never see that again, Mr. Docherty points out.

He says some people should be ashamed of themselves for letting this happen.

John Visser was chairman of the Prince Edward Island Potato Board last year when federal authorities announced the suspension of exports to the United States.

He compares the last twelve months to a roller coaster ride whose consequences are still being felt.

Generations of farmers worked hard to supply American markets with seed potatoes, but those markets disappeared with the stroke of a pen, he says. It will take a lot of hard work and good communications to get those deals back.

In some cases, according to Mr. Visser, this will be impossible because buyers have had to make deals with other companies. other providers or because they fear a further suspension in the future.

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On December 8, 2021, Prince Edward Island farmers gave away 6,000 free bags of potatoes on the hill of Parliament in Ottawa.

John Visser adds that he hasn't heard of any farms going bankrupt, but he says he knows a few farmers who have left the business. He believes potato wart was one of the factors that led them to make this decision.

He too fears the possibility of further suspensions in the future. If people don't communicate well and if there is political pressure from outside, forces beyond our control, anything is possible, he says.

I hope that people will understand that we have a good plan and that our seed potatoes are safe, concludes John Visser.

Based on a report by Nancy Russell, from CBC

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