Robert Green is just one of Prince Edward Island’s potato growers who is planting peas and fava beans, a first for his business. He hopes that the peas and beans, when rotated with his traditional potato crop, will help improve his overall yields and diversify his income options. The reason behind the planting is mainly the loss of the McCain Foods french fry plant in Albany, P.E.I., which closed in 2014. He’s been supplying potatoes to McCain Foods since 1989 but that relationship will, in all likelihood, come to a close after this season and he needs to start planning for that outcome. Like Green, potato farmers across P.E.I. are busy planting this year’s crop, but those who used to sell to McCain have the added worry of wondering where next year’s crop will be heading.
When McCain Foods closed its only processing facility on P.E.I., it committed to keep buying potatoes from its contracted growers in the province for another two seasons. Growers are responsible for trucking their product to processing facilities, but McCain subsidized the transportation of raw P.E.I. product to processing facilities in Florenceville and Grand Falls, New Brunswick, for those two years.
The move was intended to help cushion the blow to growers who had contracts to sell to the Albany plant and who were caught by surprise when it closed suddenly. McCain is not making any commitment to continue buying P.E.I. potatoes in 2017 and beyond.
“Unless things change in our favor, I’m not really in a position to be hauling to McCain Foods in New Brunswick. It’s not cost-effective to do it,” Green said. There are about 20 producers on the Island who have contracts with McCain for the 2016 season. Greg Donald, general manager of the P.E.I. Potato Board, said that despite there being no official commitment from McCain, the board is hopeful the company will continue to deal with P.E.I. growers.
Source: The (Charlottetown) Guardian/potatogrower.com