U.S. Potatoes Blocked By Manitoba

Published online: Jan 12, 2001
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Manitoba province of Canada has blocked the sale of 10,000 tons of Washington potatoes to an Alberta processor under the country's protective import rules.

Washington's Potato Commission has objected to the blockage and will appeal to NAFTA, as it is a violation of both NAFTA and WTO trade rules.

The Alberta processor agreed to purchase the potatoes from about six Columbia Basin growers because of a shortage in fry-quality potatoes in Alberta.

Pat Boss, executive director of the WPC, said the growers were ready to start shipping the potatoes a few days ago until Manitoba growers got the province of Alberta to deny the shipping permit.

Boss explained that Canada has a system requiring buyers in the provinces to obtain a "Bulk Easement" permit for their company. The company sends the permit, allowing entry into Canada.

"However, Boss said in statements to the Columbia Basin Herald newspaper, if another province objects to the province coming down and purchasing products from the United States, the objecting province can stop the purchase. Manitoba in this case has potatoes to sell and they fell they should get first consideration before Alberta buys U.S. produce.

"We're objecting to that," said Boss. "If a processor from Alberta wants to come down here and buy potatoes, they should have the choice of buying them here or from another province."

The action is just another in a long series this potato marketing season between the United States and Canada. Last summer a Canadian tribunal upheld British Columbia's high tariffs for imported U.S. fresh potatoes-tariffs that inhibit Washington growers from economically accessing the province's market. Those sanctions have been in place since 1984.