North America, Trade/Markets/Prices

Canada: The heart of PEI’s economy, potato farmers now face financial chaos and an identity crisis

As Greg Mercer reports for The Globe and Mail, after potato wart was detected in two Prince Edward Island fields last fall, Canada quickly shut down most shipments of the province’s potatoes to the U.S., in order to dissuade the Americans from imposing their own ban.

Potato growers on the island, who produce more spuds than those in any other province, are feeling anxious at the start of the new cropping season. Fears that the wart might be find again this year and that exports could be shut down a second time are causing many growers to cut back production and shift to other crops.

Farmers in PEI say the ripples are being felt across the rural economy. They say potatoes have helped finance community hockey rinks, church renovations, fire hall upgrades and school fundraisers. Those kinds of projects are in jeopardy as farms trim their budgets.

What’s especially frustrating for some farmers here is that Cavendish Farms, a frozen French fry company that is the largest buyer of processing potatoes on PEI, also operates the farm where the wart was first discovered last fall. As a processor, the company isn’t affected by the export ban, yet it has benefited from the border closure, which has depressed local prices for the potatoes it buys.

Source: The Globe and Mail. Read the full extensive article here
Photo: Following the closure of the U.S. border to Island potatoes, Colton Griffin, co-owner of W.P. Griffin Inc., was forced to send nearly all of his employees home and destroyed roughly 19 million pounds of harvested potatoes. Photo courtesy and credit Darren Calabrese/The Globe and Mail.

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