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Canadian Potato Industry COVID-19 Updates

Below is a list of updates from provincial and federal potato organizations in regards to COVID-19 information. This page will be updated when new information is available.

Keystone Potato Producers Association

The organization’s office closed as of Monday, March 23, with employees working from home, Dan Sawatzky, general manager of the Keystone Potato Producers Association (KPPA), says in an email. The spring production/United Partners meeting which was scheduled for March 26 has been cancelled, but KPPA intends to share some of the content on line. Contract negotiation meetings will move forward over conference call or Skype.

British Columbia

In British Columbia they are not too concerned as the warehouses are large but the people are spread out, Hugh Reynolds, with Reynalda Farms, Delta, B.C, says in an email. Truckers are self isolating, but the wash line crew did not come in on Monday, March 23, as they carpool and work close together. “We need to keep them safe. We have recently been grading and shipping lots of potatoes but there is still lots to go. Last year was very muddy which means that every spot on the grading line needs to be staffed,” Reynolds says.

P.E.I. Potato Board

The organization have been following provincial guidelines for social distancing and self isolation while trying to maintain a business as usual approach, Mary Kay Sonier, seed coordinator with P.E.I. Potato Board, says in an email. Their office is operating with a skeleton crew with restricted access, and those who can work from home are.

Most of the group’s winter education sessions were already held. Board and committee meetings are now conference calls or web based video meetings. Several consultations with growers are being done in alternate format – surveys, etc. – as opposed to in person sessions, and some presentations are being done over video conference, Sonier says.

Any gatherings have been cancelled and moved online or postponed as appropriate. Farm, packing plants and processing plants in P.E.I. continue to operate with new restrictions in place.

“Agriculture is an essential service and we continue to work with industry partners and goverment to ensure continued access to labour and transportation links in the supply chain both for crop inputs for the planting and growing season and to get our food product to consumers.  We welcomed the announcements that truckers crossing the U.S. and provincial borders are considered essential services and that the federal government will allow Temporary Foreign Workers for the ag sector,” Sonier says.

The group has made a page dedicated to COVID-19 updates on their website, which will be regularly updated.

Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada

The Canadian Potato Gene Resources will be temporarily closed to all visitors, including scientists due to the current COVID-19 situation, Benoît Bizimungu, research scientist with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC), says in an email statement.

“In order to safeguard the health of staff and our clients, all lab activities have been reduced to essential Gene bank preservation. All germplasm requests, donations and/or shipments will not be processed at this time.”

AAFC will continue to monitor the situation carefully and will provide updates as they happen.

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