North America, Trade/Markets/Prices

Diversion of surplus potatoes: Governments of Canada and Prince Edward Island to deliver funding

Earlier this week, the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, the Honourable Marie-Claude Bibeau, along with Prince Edward Island Minister of Agriculture and Land Bloyce Thompson, announced details on the Surplus Potato Management Response plan in a press release. As part of this plan, the Government of Canada will provide up to $28 million and the Province of PEI up to $12.2 million.

The Surplus Potato Management Response will be cost-shared between the federal and provincial governments, with a goal of diverting as many potatoes as possible to processors, packers and food banks, and minimizing the amount of surplus potatoes that must be destroyed. Producers will also receive support to assist with the costs of environmentally-sound destruction of surplus potatoes. Producers will receive up to 8.5 cents a pound for the disposal of potatoes.

Through the Surplus Potato Management Response Plan, an estimated 2.90 million cwt (290 million pounds) will be diverted to processors, packers, dehydrators, food banks and other markets. Current estimates suggest that 3 million cwt (300 million pounds) will need to be destroyed, representing just over 10 per cent of PEI’s total 2021 production. The PEI Potato Board will deliver the plan on behalf of the governments to manage potatoes that have been rendered surplus.

These efforts are helping PEI producers to sell their potatoes into the marketplace while also providing high-quality food to Canadians in need. PEI’s Department of Agriculture and Land’s Potato Wart Navigation Service remains available to producers with general questions about Potato Wart, and programs that are offered through the Provincial Government.

Both levels of government are working tirelessly to restore trade of PEI potatoes and to support the industry. As part of the ongoing efforts to engage with American counterparts, last week Minister Bibeau and the Honourable Lawrence MacAulay, Minister of Veterans Affairs and Associate Minister of National Defence and Member of Parliament for Cardigan, met with United States Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, who agreed for the United States Department of Agriculture to expedite their risk assessment of PEI table stock potatoes. Secretary Vilsack also committed to rendering a decision on exports to Puerto Rico within two weeks of the meeting.

“Prince Edward Island potato growers and their families are going through an extremely difficult time. Working with the province and the Potato Board, we are doing everything we can to divert surplus potatoes, support our growers and quickly re-establish trade in PEI table potatoes to the United States. We are confident that we have the science to encourage the Americans to reopen their market as soon as possible,” said the Honourable Marie-Claude Bibeau, Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food.

Bloyce Thompson,  Prince Edward Island Minister of Agriculture and Land, said: “We knew that each day that passed in our current landscape meant that we were one day closer to having to dispose of our quality PEI potatoes – and unfortunately that day is now upon us. I am certainly encouraged that my Department and federal colleagues could come together in supporting our producers in a time of need, and we will continue to work in stride so that our growers, producers, packers and operators can return to the business they know best as soon as possible.”

Source: Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. Original release here
Photo: This photo from 2001 shows potatoes going through the snowblower so that they will be exposed to cold and not be a source of infection for any disease in the coming year. Courtesy Mary Kay Sonier/PEI Potato Board via CBC News

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