Shipments of 80 million pounds of potatoes to McCain's New Brunswick plant may be in doubt and will deal another blow to PEI growers.
McCain is holding off signing contracts with PEI growers for 2001 until the final outcome of the U.S. border closure for potato wart is known.
It normally ships its potato peel from its NB plant to Maine to be used in dog food. But the U.S. plant is no longer accepting the peel because of the potato wart. This is costing McCain Foods $55,000 a week.
Federal Minister of Agriculture Lyle Vanclief shocked and disappointed PEI Minister of Ag Mitch Murphy and local growers when he told them to "plant another crop or nothing at all. If I'm selling my widgets and my buyer doesn't buy my widgdets anymore, I'd better not keep making widgets for that buyer any more," he said.
He continued, "My view is that they would like to take this into the NAFTA process because they could keep it there for a year or two. If they want to drag it they can drag it. The Americans are playing a protectionist game."
The U.S. plan to divide PEI into four zones to gradually begin shipping potatoes into the U.S. "is not based on science. There should be no restrictions," Murphy maintains.