P.E.I. Seed Potato Industry Won’t Reopen Before Next Year

Published online: Mar 30, 2022 Articles, Seed Potatoes Logan MacLean
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Source: Saltwire

Prince Edward Island potato farmers got a visit from the federal minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food on March 26. She told them seed potato growers will be waiting at least another year for good news.

Marie-Claude Bibeau's P.E.I. visit came days after the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced on March 24 that P.E.I. tablestock and some processing potatoes would soon be allowed back into U.S. markets.

Fresh potato exports were halted by the Canadian government in November 2021 following an October discovery of potato wart in two fields. The discoveries prompted concerns of spread of the soil-borne pest despite the mitigation measures that have been in place on P.E.I. since 2000.

Bibeau spent the day March 26 speaking with farmers and also met with P.E.I. Agriculture Minister Bloyce Thompson, she said in an interview with SaltWire Network at J. and J. Farm in O'Leary.

"Obviously the conversations with the seed potato growers are more difficult, because the market will not open this year, and probably not next year as well, because we have to do the full investigation and we have to strengthen the management plan as well," she said.

Future for Seed

BIbeau's meeting at J. and J. was originally going to be open to media, but the growers later chose to make the meeting private.

Before the meeting, though, Bibeau answered reporter's questions about what she'd been hearing from Island farmers and where things go from here.

While she said the wart management plan needs changes, she didn't layout any specifics, saying the CFIA investigation needs to come first.

"The province also has some responsibilities and will be working on (the plan) with the industry, with the province, with a vision for the future."

She was asked, in the meantime, what response she has for seed producers concerned about the health of their industry.

At this point, Egmont MP Bobby Morrissey, who was attending the meeting, interrupted the interview to dispute the premise of the question.

"I take exception to anybody using the term, including opposition politicians, that the industry is devastated. The industry has a future," he said.

When SaltWire asked Bibeau the same question again, she agreed with Morrissey's optimism, saying innovation is needed, though she doesn't want it to be a top-down directive from Ottawa.

"Having someone from Ottawa telling you how they feel, I don't think is the right thing, but my understanding is, yes, the industry has a future."