The recently announced ban of sprout inhibitor chlorpropham (commonly known as CIPC) in the EU is causing major waves in the global potato industry. Announced in mid-June, the ban is effective on product registrations as of January 8, 2020. Grace on residue application will only be given until October 8, 2020 (a specific maximum residue limit has yet to be announced). Since the EU’s ban was first announced, I’ve been asked regularly if it’s going to affect us here at home, too. My short answer? We might not be impacted immediately, but ultimately: yes. Here’s why:
The most immediate issue for North America’s potato industry is the global reach of today’s multinational processors and processed product retailers. Given how common CIPC use is across North America (and the fact that CIPC residue persists in soil and storage buildings for decades or more), the EU’s CIPC ban will effectively impact virtually all shipping of potatoes and potato products from this continent to Europe. Though the EU is not a major consumer of North American grown table-stock, we do ship significant processed product to Europe. I expect this new trade limitation will cause at least some impact on value across the industry and, perhaps more significantly, headaches for processors who currently enjoy easy international product flow.
The EU’s ban on CIPC could affect the North American potato industry even more directly if our own government or, more likely, a major North American potato buyer demands a similar end to CIPC usage here. Should even just one major French fry retailer, for example, decide it no longer wants CIPC in any of its product, the decision could set a standard producers have no choice but to meet. While I don’t anticipate such a change occurring in the near future, it’s worth remembering that the most successful farmers are usually the ones who proactively plan for change.
In mid-July, Canada submitted a letter of protest to the World Trade Organization (WTO), arguing that the EU’s recent ban of certain pesticides serves as an unfair trade barrier. CIPC was not mentioned by name; however, the timing of the letter was within weeks of the EU’s ban. It remains to be seen how the WTO will respond to that protest.
Alternatives to CIPC do exist. Though not as easy on the wallet as CIPC, some alternatives offer significant value-add benefits. As well as inhibiting sprouting, 1,4-DMN (1,4-Dimethylnaphthalen), for example, triggers fungistatic and water-loss-limiting genes that optimize quality and ultimate salable volume. Educate yourself on product options: the knowledge just might come in handy.