Canada Halts Prince Edward Island's Potato Exports to U.S.

Potato wart was recently discovered on several farms in the province.

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CHARLOTTETOWN, Prince Edward Island (AP) — Canada announced Monday it has suspended all shipments of fresh potatoes from Prince Edward Island to the United States after the recent discovery of potato wart on several farms in the province.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency announced the order Monday in a news release. Federal Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau said the U.S. had made clear that it would ban imports of all fresh potatoes from the Atlantic Coast province if Canada did not act first to suspend trade.

Potato wart is a fungal parasite spread through the movement of infected potatoes, soil and farm equipment. It poses no threat to human health but can greatly decrease the yield of potato crops.

Greg Donald of Prince Edward Potato Board said the province meets the potato needs of approximately 9 million Americans each year. The industry does about $110 million Canadian (US$87 million) in U.S. business each year.

He said the U.S. Department of Agriculture pushed for the suspension at the surgent of “a segment of the American potato industry.”

“This is a politically based trade disruption that will limit trade in a year when potatoes are already in short supply across North America and globally. This trade restriction will undoubtedly lead to higher grocery store prices for American consumers due to a lack of available product in regions that depend Prince Edward Island potatoes.”

Potato wart was found on two Prince Edward Island farms last month. It also had been detected on 33 potato fields in the province since 2000.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency on Nov. 2 stopped shipping seed potatoes from the province. to the U.S., and Monday's order expands export restrictions to include all fresh potatoes. The order doesn’t apply to processed potatoes such as frozen products.

Prince Edward Island Premier Dennis King called the decision “extremely disappointing."

King said the potatoes are a part of the identity the province, where the sector supports about 5,000 jobs. Prince Edward Island has a population of about 157,000.

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