Canadians Boycott U. S. Potatoes

Published online: Jan 26, 2001
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At least three major Atlantic grocery chains have removed all United States potatoes from their Prince Edward Island stores-until the U.S. border is opened to Canadian potatoes.

Sobeys, Atlantic Superstore and Loblaws have all taken American potatoes off the shelves in favor of PEI potatoes after complaints of local potato growers.

The USDA/Animal Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) Plant Protection and Quarantine Assistant Deputy Administrator Alan S. Green in a letter to Robert Carberry, director of the Plant Health and Production Division of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency in Ontario on Jan. 25, reiterated the mitigation measures to allow the movement of PEI potatoes into the U.S.

PEI growers have discovered potato wart fungus in a field of potatoes. The wart is a serious threat to the entire North American potato industry because it can stay active in soil for up to 30 years. It is destructive to potato tissue and makes potatoes unmarketable.

"The intent of this mitigation is to prevent the spread of potato wart that may be associated with field-grown seed potatoes," Green wrote Carberry.

"Field-grown seed potatoes may be exported to other countries, but they should not be moved to other provinces of Canada or to the United States. Mini-tubers, the small tubers produced in a soil-less medium under greenhouse conditions which are controlled to exclude pests and diseases, fall outside the scope of this mitigation," the letter read.

"Mini-tubers produced in any province of Canada and exported to the United States require a phytosanitary certificate. Mini-tubers produced on PEI must have a phytosanitary certificate with the additional declaration `The mini-tubers in this shipment have met the U.S. export standards for seed potatoes.'"

Virus levels on PEI potato seed have been reduced, with the majority coming in below the 10 percent mark, it has been reported. But the real fear is that the fungal potato wart disease may be carried outside the quarantine area on table stock or seed potatoes to other production areas.