PEI farmers halt potato trading in the US market for 5 days and lost sales of large farms and family businesses for 5 days.
The farmers had little thought about the outage. It was introduced by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) on Monday. Secretary of Agriculture Marie-Claude Bibeau said this was done to prevent Americans from doing the same.
The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) is concerned about the discovery of potato warts in two P.E.I. October field. Farmers heard it coming from the CFIA last Friday evening.
Deanna Gaudet is P.E.I. who grows potatoes in eastern P.E.I. was planning a 60th birthday celebration for her father. However, it became a completely different activity at the table.
“He and his two brothers who are farming with him were all sitting at the kitchen table at the conference call and listening to the upcoming news,” Gaudet said.
We still partied a little, but with heavier hearts.”
The PEI Potato Board estimates the value of the US fresh potato market, which is the focus of this ban, to be $120 million per year.
With American Thanksgiving coming up this week and Christmas on the road, this is a busy time of year for potato sales.
Keisha Rose Topic, who also farms potatoes in eastern P.E.I. and co-owns a potato packer with the Gaudet family, said every day the border is blocked is costly.
“As things close down, we’re losing money by the day,” Rose Topic said.
We don’t want to see this continue on for a week or a month.”
Rose Topic stated that her own farm mostly serves Canadian markets, while her American markets are expanding. Her primary worry is for the packing plant, which serves around two dozen farms and employs 33 people. It presently operates on two shifts, but she believes one of them will have to be eliminated if the border is not opened within a week.
Potato wart disfigures potatoes and decreases yields, but it does not pose a health risk to humans. The USDA has classified the fungus that causes it as a severe threat.