Cavendish Farms announced today that they will be focusing on the frozen potato processing business on Prince Edward Island due to the limited availability of raw product (potatoes). The decision will result in the closure of their fresh produce packaging facility in O’Leary, Prince Edward Island at the end of the year.
The closure will affect 40 employees.
“Cavendish Farms has had to make this difficult business decision based on ongoing demand, and limited availability of potatoes on the Island,” said Ron Clow, General Manager, Cavendish Farms.
“The supply of raw product is critical to our business. Cavendish Farms had to make up for a shortage of 150 million lbs. of potatoes in 2017. As a result, we needed to find other sources on the Island as well as import potatoes from New Brunswick, Manitoba, Alberta and Maine. Plans are already in place to import 65M lbs. this year. This practice is not sustainable. There simply aren’t enough potatoes on PEI for both our lines of business.
“Our Human Resources team will be providing support to all impacted employees by helping with new assignments, assistance to find other positions across J.D. Irving or with post-employment support once operations cease. We are making every effort to assist impacted employees,” added Clow. “This is an unfortunate consequence of low yields and lack of raw potatoes on PEI.”
“Our contracted potatoes will be used to supply our frozen potato processing plants in New Annan,” said Clow. “We will continue to use the O’Leary facility for raw potato storage and, as such, it will continue to provide some seasonal employment.”
If farmers are not able to grow more potatoes (by increasing yields, not acres) then the Prince Edward Island industry may not be sustainable as competition in the frozen potato export market intensifies. The PEI industry will require supplemental irrigation as part of the solution. The Island cannot afford to have its largest export product entirely dependent on rainfall.