Following a productive meeting between Canadian and American officials Prince Edward Island potato growers may be able to ship fresh potatoes to Puerto Rico within two weeks.
Since November, potato exports to the United States and Puerto Rico from P.E.I. were halted after potato wart was discovered for the second year in a row on the Island.
On Jan. 27 Marie-Claude Bibeau, federal minister of agriculture and agri-food, and Lawrence MacAulay, federal minister of veterans affairs, associate minister of national defence and a member of parliament for P.E.I., met with U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack in Washington.
A news release on the meeting says Bibeau and MacAulay stressed the importance of restoring market access and that trade of table stock potatoes is safe with the current risk mitigation measures in place. All P.E.I. potatoes must be sourced from non-restricted fields, washed, graded, and treated with a sprout inhibitor, before leaving the Island.
Vilsack expressed understanding of the challenges, and reaffirmed the importance of a science-based approach in the resolution of this matter, the release says. Bibeau and MacAulay advocated for the U.S. to prioritize restoring trade of table stock potatoes as a first step, in particular to Puerto Rico, as well as the continental U.S., due to this type of potato has a negligible risk of transmitting potato wart. Vilsack said the information provided to the U.S. Department of Agriculture will be reviewed expeditiously.
“Secretary Vilsack also confirmed that a decision on Puerto Rico will be rendered in under two weeks,” the release says.
A news release from the P.E.I. Potato Board says they’re pleased by the meeting and intent to work together to hold, both Canada and the U.S., accountable on the timelines that have been laid out.
“This is a good first step, it is not a deal done and we do know there is still a lot of work to be done,” the release says.