The government-industry potato working group met on Wednesday, Nov. 24 for initial discussions about the Prince Edward Island potato wart discovery, a Nov. 26 news release from the federal government said.
The working group was formed in response to the Canadian government halting all exports of P.E.I. potatoes to the United States, following a potato wart discovery on the Island.
“We must take a team Canada approach in order to restore market access to the U.S. for P.E.I. fresh potatoes,” Marie-Claude Bibeau, federal minister of agriculture and agri-food, says in the release. “The United States has made it very clear that if we restarted issuing export certificates right now, they would immediately sign a federal order that would have extremely damaging consequences for our farmers. I am confident that with the potato working group, we will find our way through these challenges and get farmers the help they need
The working group brings together the full value-chain of the P.E.I. potato sector to exchange information, develop strategies to determine and help mitigate impacts of potato wart on the sector, and identify potential short and long-term solutions to current trade disruptions, the release says. Members include representatives from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), as well as representatives from the P.E.I. government, the P.E.I. Potato Board, P.E.I. seed and fresh potato growers, and key potato processors.
The release says during the meeting, the CFIA outlined the steps the organization is taking to gather the scientific evidence needed to assure their U.S. counterpart agency, the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), of the safety of trade of table and processing potatoes. The CFIA is aiming to conduct another round of technical discussions with APHIS next week.
The working group will continue to meet to assess the impacts on P.E.I. potato growers and the rest of the value chain. The release notes the group will examine all options to find end-point destinations for the sale and further processing of the existing stock of potatoes in P.E.I., and other measures to support affected growers. Bibeau will attend the next meeting on Nov. 29.