February 9, 2022 By Bree Rody
The United States has agreed to resume imports of Prince Edward Island (P.E.I.) table stock potatoes into the territory of Puerto Rico effective Feb. 9.
The announcement was made in Canada by minister of agriculture and agri-food Marie-Claude Bibeau, who said the Government of Canada has been taking a “science-based approach” with the U.S. to provide the necessary assurances that would allow for the resumption of trade for P.E.I.’s potatoes. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is working with the industry to implement the import requirements for Puerto Rico, including labelling and traceability.
In November, potato wart was confirmed in P.E.I. potato fields for the second year in a row after two separate farms submitted potatoes they suspected to be infected. As a result, seed potato shipments to the United States have been temporarily suspended. Following the 2020 discovery of potato wart (Synchytrium endobioticum), U.S. borders were also closed to P.E.I. seed potatoes. The CFIA found the infected fields to be cleared of fungus in February, and the U.S. embargo was lifted in mid-March.
At the 2022 Canadian Potato Summit, P.E.I. Potato Board general manager Greg Donald stressed the difficulty this had caused for growers from an economic perspective. “I just can’t describe or put into words the devastation that this has caused,” he said during an industry panel.
Resuming exports of table stock potatoes to Puerto Rico is an “important step” in restoring U.S. market access for P.E.I, according to the Government of Canada. In 2020, P.E.I.’s exports of table stock potatoes to Puerto Rico were valued at $12 million. Exports of P.E.I. table stock potatoes to Puerto Rico represent a negligible risk for the transmission of potato wart, given that Puerto Rico does not produce commercial potatoes and that there are strong and effective risk mitigation measures in place. In addition, P.E.I. potatoes are an important staple for many families throughout Puerto Rico given their high quality and affordability.
The U.S. Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service is also currently working on their analysis for resuming imports of P.E.I. table stock potatoes to the continental U.S.
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