North America, Trade/Markets/Prices

Is Canada fighting a trade war against its own potato farmers?

Prince Edward Island potato farmers in Canada are warning Americans in advertisements that a “Spudpocalypse” is nigh. Privately, in a letter to government officials, they’re placing some of the blame for the potato disaster on the federal government’s Ministry of Agriculture.

As Edward Keenan, Washington Bureau Chief for the Toronto Star reports, in a harshly worded letter sent last week to Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau and obtained by the Star, the Prince Edward Island Potato Board blasted her for declaring the province “infested” with potato wart and suspending potato shipments to the U.S. after the fungus was found in two fields in November 2021. Since then, the potato board estimates $120 million in potential revenue has been lost, and another growing season is jeopardized as the suspension drags on.

The letter sent Jan. 20, said Bibeau’s approach — presenting the science to Americans in hopes exports will resume — has proved ineffective, and calls for an immediate shift in tactics.

“It is evident from reports from the (Canadian Food Inspection Agency) staff involved in technical discussions with the United States that no timelines have been established for a resolution, nor have they even obtained clarity on what ‘science’ is required in order to resume shipments,” the letter says. “Trade advocacy — rather than science — now seems to be the path that CFIA is suggesting.”

Potato board general manager Greg Donald and PEI Premier Dennis King told the Star they’d welcome a trade fight, in which Canada could implement retaliatory import bans and launch a legal challenge. They suggest that would make the matter a political hot potato to be solved quickly.

Donald says that the Potato Board has received no response yet to their letter. But Bibeau responded to some of its contents in an interview with the Star, saying PEI potato exports are her “Number one top priority” and defending her approach as sound.

Source: Toronto Star. Read the full story in the Star here
Photo: Courtesy Fertilizer Canada

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