The Government-Industry Potato Working Group formed by Agriculture and Agri-Food Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau held its first meeting to discuss the minister's decision to halt shipments of PEI fresh potatoes south of the border held its first meeting November 24.
The Working Group brings together the full value-chain of the PEI potato sector to exchange information, develop strategies to determine and help mitigate impacts of potato wart on the sector, and identify potential short and long-term solutions to current trade disruptions. Its membership includes representatives from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency and Global Affairs Canada, as well as representatives from the Government of Prince Edward Island, the PEI Potato Board, PEI seed and fresh potato growers, and key potato processors.
During the meeting, the CFIA outlined the steps they are taking to gather the scientific evidence needed to assure their U.S. counterpart agency, the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), of the safety of trade of table and processing potatoes. The CFIA is aiming to conduct another round of technical discussions with APHIS this week.
“We must take a Team Canada approach in order to restore market access to the U.S. for PEI fresh potatoes. Until we can assure the United States of the safety of our potatoes, it is imperative we work together to seek all possible solutions to resolve this issue and limit impacts on our farmers," the minister said. "The United States has made it very clear that if we restarted issuing export certificates right now, they would immediately sign a federal order that would have extremely damaging consequences for our farmers. I am confident that with the Potato Working Group, we will find our way through these challenges and get farmers the help they need.”
The working group will continue to meet to assess the impacts on PEI potato farmers and those along the value chain, and is expected to examine all options to find end-point destinations for the sale and further processing of the existing stock of potatoes in PEI, and other measures to support affected farmers.