Washington Growers ‘Slapped In Face’

Published online: May 20, 2002
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Washington process potato growers who lost contracts or had contracts cut by McCain Foods are looking at it as “taking a slap in the face,”

Dale Lathim, director of the Potato Growers of Washington, was quoted in the May 17 edition of the Tri-City Herald by Staff Writer Mike Lee. Lathim said the cuts “were a devastating blow,” especially for growers who had already planted or had their acreage cut.

Lee says a string of 300 trucks will be bringing 9,000 tons of Canadian potatoes from McCain’s Coaldale, AB, growing area to its Othello, WA, plant.

In April McCain cut 2002 contracts for 21 growers by as much as 40 percent compared to last season’s volume.

Lathim said after cutting contracts and then bringing in potatoes from Alberta was like putting salt in the wound. He said Washington growers are upset because they still have potatoes in storage.

Lathim says McCain is paying significantly less by importing potatoes than it would have to pay on the spot market for Washington potatoes.

Pat Boss, director of the Washington State Potato Commission, said, “There are a lot of growers out there that would sell their potatoes for a reasonable price. I am baffled that McCain would have to go 600 miles to bring in potatoes from Canada and pay huge freight expenses.”

Boss speculated that McCain could be trying to keep the amount of stored potatoes high in the Columbia Basin to drive down the price. “One could make the assumption, looking at this from the outside, that that would be one of the reasons,” he said.

“Companies are taking advantage of one-way trade and it’s affecting our growers in a negative way,” Boss continued, speaking of the Canadian Bulk Easement Law that prohibits potatoes being imported from the United States when other Canadian provinces have potatoes.

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