Fungus finding stops seed, fresh potato movement from PEI to U.S.

(Kara Oosterhuis/RealAgriculture)

Seed potato movement out of P.E.I. to the U.S. has been suspended, following the finding of potato wart fungus in two fields in the province.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has also suspended the movement of fresh potatoes from P.E.I. to the U.S., which includes table stock potatoes and processing potatoes. The suspension does not apply to processed potatoes, such as frozen products.

The fungus was first detected in P.E.I. in 2000. These two positive cases were first confirmed in October.

Potato wart poses no threat to human health or food safety, but is known to decrease yield on farms. Potato wart is spread through the movement of affected potatoes, soil and farm equipment.

“We believe in the science, which tells us that the U.S. intention to suspend the trade of fresh potatoes from P.E.I. goes beyond what is necessary to mitigate risk. With the proper mitigation measures, the trade of table stock and processing potatoes remains absolutely safe,” says Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau.

“But in order to resume trade as quickly as possible and prevent the imposition of more damaging, long-term measures, we must engage with the United States’ concerns. Therefore, as of November 21, 2021, the CFIA has temporarily suspended trade of fresh potatoes from P.E.I. to the U.S.,” continues Bibeau. “We do not take this measure lightly.”

The CFIA surveys for potato wart annually in P.E.I. There is a plan in place to mitigate the risk of spread of potato wart outside of the restricted areas in P.E.I., the government says, including restrictions on individual fields to restrict the movement of potatoes, plants, soil, and other items that could result in the spread of potato wart outside of the regulated fields.

The province is now under a Ministerial Order, restricting the movement of seed potatoes from P.E.I. and introducing new risk mitigation measures for P.E.I. table stock and processing potatoes. These measures may include the requirement to brush and wash potatoes to remove any soil, allowing P.E.I. seed potato farms to operate and grow seed potatoes for use within the province and to maintain the continued movement of table stock and processing potatoes to other provinces, CFIA says.

The U.S. Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) had informed CFIA it would impose a federal order banning all imports of fresh potatoes from P.E.I. for an undetermined period of time, unless Canada took voluntary action immediately.

“This CFIA action will serve to reduce the immediate risk and provide the Agency and potato growers time to assess the risk, continue the ongoing investigation into the most recent detections and determine the way forward in support of the P.E.I. potato industry,” the government says in a release.

Minister Bibeau and federal officials will be holding a briefing on the potato wart issue on Monday morning.

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