Last week, NPC provided an update on the potato wart crisis facing Prince Edward Island (PEI), Canada. Based on the data released last week by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), it is clear that soil sampling has declined substantially over the past five years. The absence of a strong testing program is a large concern of the technical experts as it is essential to understand where the disease is and is not in PEI.
“The industry in the U.S. is extremely sympathetic and concerned about the evolving situation in PEI. We strongly support the efforts of CFIA and USDA to protect the U.S. from this devastating disease. Our industry wants to see trade safely resume as quickly as possible once the disease situation is quantified and necessary mitigation is established,” said Kam Quarles, CEO of NPC.
Two weeks ago, CFIA restricted the movement of PEI potatoes to other Canadian provinces and paused all exports of PEI potatoes to the United States in order to prevent the spread of potato wart. The transmission of potato wart beyond PEI would have a devastating impact on North American potato growers and industry partners from both nations. The U.S. potato industry alone would likely lose access to all international fresh potato markets, costing the industry over $225 million in annual sales, should wart be spread beyond PEI and into the United States.
In an interview with POLITICO, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said trade restrictions will be relaxed when the CFIA can demonstrate work to “delimit the infestation and trace the sources so that appropriate mitigation measures can be imposed.”
“We’re asking the CFIA to redouble their efforts in terms of getting all that work and evidence and scientific work through the CFIA to the USDA,” Secretary Vilsack told POLITICO. “It’s not going to happen overnight.”
The issue has taken a national stage in Canada, with PEI potato growers traveling to Ottawa this week to pressure the government to overrule CFIA’s decision to halt shipments of PEI potatoes off the island, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau defending the agency’s actions during a meeting of their parliament [video link].
NPC appreciates the steadfast support of Secretary Vilsack and the entire USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) team in addressing this virulent disease. The U.S. industry will continue to work with APHIS, CFIA, and our partners in the Canadian potato industry to ensure that transparent, science-based measures are installed to mitigate disease risk and productively address trade between the two countries.