No news for PEI potato growers. on the reopening of the American border

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There is no word on a change in the status of PEI potato exports and the reopening of the US border.

Canada’s agriculture minister said March 10 could be the day she hears from her US counterpart.

Marie-Claude Bibeau met with the US Secretary of Agriculture six weeks ago in Washington.

At the time, Tom Vilsack told him that it would take US scientists five to six weeks to complete their risk assessment of shipping fresh potatoes from PEI. in the USA.

Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau, US Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and Prince Edward Island MP Lawrence MacAulay met in Washington on January 27. (Twitter/Marie-Claude Bibeau)

The PEI Potato Board. and many industry players were waiting for the announcement of the resumption of exports.

But instead, there was just a statement from Minister Bibeau’s office to CBC News:

“We recognize that the situation of restoring market access for PEI table potatoes. on the American mainland is extremely difficult for PEI potato growers. who have to make decisions about the upcoming season. We continue to work with APHIS and USDA to advocate for the resumption of exports. for PEI table potatoes. as soon as possible,” the statement read.

“With the risk mitigation measures already in place, we strongly believe that table and processing potatoes can be traded safely, and that is why they can be sold anywhere in Canada. We are confident that our American partner will soon come to the same conclusion. .”

Lack of “overwhelming” response

The PEI Potato Board meeting in Ottawa on the suspension of trade in fresh PEI potatoes. with the United States, on December 2, 2021. (PEI Potato Board)

The PEI Potato Board also sent a statement to CBC News.

The council said farmers had “anxiously awaited today’s decision” and the lack of response was “crushing for farmers who have to decide what to do with the potatoes they have stored, what and how much to plant in 2022, or even if they should plant in 2022.”

“Buyers in the US want our potatoes, CFIA says there is negligible risk in shipping washed and sprouted potatoes, and we don’t know when the Minister will hear from the US , nor what the Canadian government will take as next steps. strategy 16 weeks ago was for Canada to take matters into its own hands and close the border in order to have time to negotiate with the American threat to close the border,” the statement said.

An aerial view of the Prince Edward Island farmers’ potato convoy in Charlottetown on December 20, 2021. (Shane Hennessey/CBC)

“If the United States does not agree to open the continent to potatoes from Prince Edward Island within a few days, we will know that Minister Bibeau’s strategy has failed, and it will be time to take a different approach. If negotiating in good faith with the United States is not enough to make it work, we must recognize that the United States is engaged in a trade war with Canada, and Canada must respond accordingly.

“We are in sudden death overtime on this issue, time is up.”

Still waiting

Last week, PEI farmers completed a potato disposal program, destroying approximately 136 million kilograms of surplus potatoes. (Submitted by Sheilagh Annear)

Last week, PEI farmers completed a potato disposal program, destroying approximately 136 million kilograms of surplus potatoes.

Washington’s response is a crucial next step in moving potatoes south of the border into the mainland United States.

If Americans give the go-ahead, it would allow the Canadian Food Inspection Agency to lift export restrictions it put in place last fall, prevention officials said after warts were discovered in two fields on the island.

At the same meeting in Washington in January, the US Secretary of Agriculture said there would be a decision within two weeks on resuming exports to Puerto Rico. (Joe Colon Studio)

At the same meeting in Washington in January, the US Secretary of Agriculture said there would be a decision within two weeks on resuming exports to Puerto Rico.

This announcement was made on February 8, within the two-week window, and these shipments have resumed.

Earlier this week, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency reported a third detection of potato wart, found in soil samples taken last fall.

The CFIA said this latest finding was not unexpected, as it is not uncommon to find potato wart in associated fields during a survey.

The export ban has been in place since November 21.

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