Canada suspends PEI potato exports

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency announced today that it would suspend shipments of Prince Edward Island potatoes to the United States and PEI seed potatoes to other Canadian provinces to stop the spread of the potato wart fungus.

The fungus was found on PEI in October, and last week the National Potato Council and 13 state potato organizations sent a letter to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack asking for the government’s support to prevent spread to the United States by suspending the importation of all potatoes grown on PEI, not just seed potatoes.

The USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service threatened to stop importation of potatoes from the PEI and the Canadian government took voluntary action.

The National Potato Council (NPC) welcomed the announcement.

“The U.S. potato industry appreciates CFIA for acting quickly and recognizing the dire threat to the U.S. and Canadian potato industries should potato wart be spread beyond PEI,” said NPC President Dominic LaJoie, a Maine potato grower.

Should potato wart be transmitted to the United States, the U.S. potato industry would likely lose access to all international fresh potato markets, costing the industry over $225 million in annual sales, NPC said.

“We appreciate the steadfast support of Secretary Vilsack and the entire USDA APHIS team in addressing this virulent disease,” said Jared Balcom, vice president of trade affairs for NPC.

“The U.S. industry stands ready to engage with APHIS, CFIA and the Canadian industry to ensure that science-based measures are maintained to mitigate disease risk and productively address trade between the two countries.”

Vilsack said in a statement, “I appreciate Canada’s action to suspend the movement of all potatoes from Prince Edward Island to the United States. Our risk assessment demonstrated that this action is necessary to protect US potato producers from possible exposure to the federally designated select agent Synchytrium endobioticum, commonly known as potato wart.”

“We look forward to working with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency as they delimit the infestation and trace the sources so that appropriate mitigation measures can be imposed and trade restrictions relaxed.”

–The Hagstrom Report

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