P.E.I. truck convoy protests potato export ban

A convoy of close to 40 trucks made its way through Charlottetown, P.E.I., on Monday, protesting a ban on potato shipments to the U.S.

“The last four weeks have been horrible for Island farmers, but we’re not giving up,” said John Visser, Prince Edward Island farmer and chairman of the P.E.I. Potato Board, in a related statement. “We are here to show the federal government, who walked us into this situation, how we’re feeling and the impact their ineffective action is having.”

PEI potato convoy
Close to 40 trucks, with 16 carrying a collective 500,000 lb. of potatoes, parade through Charlottetown, P.E.I. (CNW Group/Prince Edward Island Potato Board)

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) established a ban on potato exports on Nov. 22, after identifying cases of potato wart in two monitored fields. While the fungus doesn’t threaten human health, it does affect the appearance and marketability of the crop.

“[Federal Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau] put the ban in place but has not been able to explain why the same scientifically accepted management practices, which are good enough to allow United States potatoes into Canada, are not good enough to allow P.E.I. potatoes into the United States. This is not some academic discussion; this is the lives and livelihoods of thousands of Islanders at stake,” Visser said.

The potatoes continue to be shipped across Canada and to other export markets, the board says. And shipments of potatoes with quarantined or regulated pests continue to be imported from 16 U.S. states, after washing and sprout inhibition.

The industry adopted a series of ongoing measures including trailer washing procedures after the wart was first identified in the province in 2000.

“At a certain point, the surplus of potatoes is simply too much to sell in other markets or to hold on to and ship if and when the border reopens,” said Greg Donald, general manager of the P.E.I. Potato Board.

  • An original cutline for the photo that accompanies this article was updated to reflect that the weight was a total carried by a group of trucks.

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    • Our apologies on that. We’ve clarified the cutline to reflect that the weight was a total carried by a group of trucks. Thanks for bringing it to our attention.