A $4.7 million provincial program developed in conjunction with the Prince Edward Island provincial government and Cavendish Farms should help deal with a surplus of potatoes accumulating in the warehouses of processing growers during the COVID-19 pandemic, says the general manager of the Prince Edward Island Potato Board in Canada.
At the time the program was announced on April 22, there were in excess of 100 million pounds of potatoes destined for processing that were no longer needed due to the sharp drop in french fry sales following the closure of restaurants in the wake of COVID-19. Greg Donald said that number has been growing steadily since then.
The money is destined to go to Cavendish Farms to help with the cost of trucking and storing the processed product until the market improves. He stressed the company has no need for the potatoes at the present time and will incur costs over and above the money allocated in the program.
The Island Farmer was unable to contact Cavendish Farms but the company indicated to CBC in a statement they were still reviewing the deal.
“It is the growers that will benefit from this program because their potatoes now have a home,” Donald explained.
He described the deal as a better option than burying the potatoes, using them for livestock feed or sending them to the dehydration plant. Cavendish Farms had earlier told growers they could seek out other markets but Donald said, after an initial spike in demand in early March as the physical distancing measures went into place, the fresh market has returned to more normal volumes.
The general manager explained Cavendish Farms has instructed growers to plant 15 per cent less acres and he is also expecting a reduction in the 10-15 per cent range on the fresh market side of the ledger. He added “this is just such an unprecedented situation and we are appreciative of Cavendish Farms and the provincial government working with us.”
However, there is concern in some quarters about the fact that all of the funds are destined for the processing company. The district director of the National Farmers Union said the deal raises “a lot of red flags.”