'Common sense now needs to prevail'

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25 January 2022
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Wart find was blown out of proportion says grower group chairman.

A POTATO wart find on Prince Edward Island was 'blown out of proportion' and common sense now needs to prevail according to Ray Keenan, Chairman of the United Potato Growers of Canada.

Prince Edward Island has been excluded from cross-border trade ince November 22nd last year because of the wart finding. Washed, sprout inhibited, table potatoes from non-restricted potato fields in the province are no longer allowed to be shipped and thereby purchased by consumers residing within the boundaries of the trading partner to the south or further abroad in the territory of Puerto Rico.

But Roy, who lives in the area, says the wart was only found in two fields of processing potatoes that were grown in fields related to previous detections – similar to ongoing detection of potato cyst nematode in Idaho.

In an online opinion piece, Roy states: "Traditionally, Canada and the United States have shared for the most part, a seamless border on potato trade. We supply each other’s table, french fry, chip, and seed industry with reliable supplies of raw product for each other’s customers. Our major processors have factories in both countries, with the supply chain dependent on our trade between Canada and the United States. Together, we are a reliable source as a North American Supply Network, but divided, we are not a reliable supplier, and this year our North American customers have the potential to be short on supply.

"Eastern Canada and Maine had excellent growing conditions producing record crops along the Eastern Seaboard. However, based on production data from USDA, the US crop is down 5 million hundred weight, due to hot, dry weather conditions. Inquiries from U.S. buyers indicate that fresh and processing customers need the potatoes that we currently are not allowed to ship. In 2019, the reverse situation occurred, and the U.S. helped us out with a short supply of potatoes in Canada, by filling the deficit from a long supply in Idaho."

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Since December 23rd, CFIA has completed a cross-country, potato wart survey of all provinces in Canada that export potatoes to the US, with all tests, including PEI in areas outside of regulated fields, coming back negative, Roy points out. 

"There is of course a protocol in place via the Potato Wart Management Plan to prevent potential spread of soil or tubers from the potato regulated area – similar to protocols in the PCN management plan for regulated fields in Idaho and the Golden Nematode Plan for regulated fields in New York.

"The comments that Canada is not keeping up with its testing are simply not true. A robust management plan for potato wart includes both soil testing and visual surveillance, unlike PCN which relies mainly on soil testing. This story of testing inadequacy is getting old and tired," he said.

"The science has already been proven! Washed, sprout nipped, potatoes meet the scientific requirements. The protocols are in place. The only thing left to resolve is the common sense."

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