Advanced Search
Prince Edward Island resumes export of potatoes to Puerto Rico

Bags of Prince Edward Island potatoes are unloaded from a transport truck on Dec. 8, 2021, in Ottawa as the potato industry lobbied the federal government to overturn the export ban. Courtesy: Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press

Canada's agriculture minister says work is being 'expedited' to get spuds into mainland U.S. The United States has agreed to let imports of P.E.I. table stock potatoes to Puerto Rico resume as of Wednesday. U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack made the announcement in a news release Tuesday.

Tom Vilsack U.S. Secretary of Agriculture:
 
"It is critical that we base our agricultural trade decisions on sound science. After considering Puerto Rico's low risk for potato warts due to climate conditions, as well as the lack of a commercial potato production industry on the island."

"We are confident that with appropriate mitigations in place this trade can resume safely, and the U.S. potato industry will remain protected."
 
On Nov. 21, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency suspended the fresh potato trade to the United States and its territory of Puerto Rico. Courtesy: Shane Hennessey/CBC

On November 21, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency suspended the fresh potato trade to the United States and its territory of Puerto Rico. Courtesy: Shane Hennessey/CBC

Conditions regarding matters such as labeling will apply as potato shipments resume to the U.S. territory, according to the office of Canadian Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau.

Randy Visser, president of G Visser & Sons in Orwell Cove, P.E.I.:
 
"We were eagerly anticipating the news and really a little bit on pins and needles this week on whether it was going to happen in time to start packing this week for Puerto Rico, and given that it's not quite the middle of the week yet we have some time to put some loads together and that's really good."
Visser said about 20 percent of his potato sales go to Puerto Rico. He said reopening that market means fewer potatoes will have to be destroyed. MP Lawrence MacAulay, who represents Prince Edward Island in the federal cabinet, said the government has been doing everything it can to get the "world-class potatoes" moving back across the border.

Lawrence MacAulay:
 
"This is a vitally important first step to resuming trade to the rest of the U.S. market."
P.E.I. Premier Dennis King thanked MacAulay for his work on the file in a statement of his own Tuesday afternoon, saying it is "imperative" to get the rest of the U.S. market reopened to P.E.I. potatoes as soon as possible.

Dennis King:
 
"Every week that we remain locked out of our major market, millions of pounds of high-quality and safe potatoes that should be eaten are being destroyed while our multi-generational Island family farms are hurting."
On Nov. 21, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency suspended the export of fresh P.E.I. potatoes to the United States and its territory of Puerto Rico following the discovery of potato wart in two Island fields. Wart is a fungus that disfigures potatoes so that they are unmarketable and reduce yields but poses no health risk to humans.

At the time, CFIA officials said they were acting so that American officials didn't impose a unilateral ban that would be harder to get lifted. That decision brought to sudden halt exports that are usually worth about USD 120 million per year to the P.E.I. economy.

On January 27, Bibeau and MacAulay met with Vilsack and his officials in Washington, D.C. to try to get the market reopened. Tuesday's news on the Puerto Rico front followed a call involving Bibeau and Vilsack.
 
bibeau-and-macaulay-1200.jpg

Canadian Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau and P.E.I. MP Lawrence MacAulay answer questions after meeting with U.S. officials about the potato ban on January 27, 2022. Courtesy: CBC

Marie-Claude Bibeau:
 
"As the government of Canada has said all along, exports of P.E.I. table stock potatoes to Puerto Rico represent a negligible risk for the transmission of potato wart, given that Puerto Rico does not produce commercial potatoes and that we have strong and effective risk mitigation measures in place."
Bibeau said the United States Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is currently working on an expedited manner on their analysis for importing P.E.I. table stock potatoes to the continental United States.
Heat and Control
Help