Two of the most powerful voices in P.E.I.s billion dollar potato industry appeared before the Legislature's agriculture committee Thursday in Charlottetown.

They called for a lifting of the moratorium on high capacity agricultural wells in the province.

Irving-owned Cavendish Farms, and the P.E.I. Potato Board said it's the only way for potato farmers to stay competitive.

Cavendish Farms president Robert Irving said lower yields resulting from a lack of irrigation is costing growers $400 to $600 per acre.

“With no irrigation at times we have a lack, there's a lack of quality, lower yields in the fields, and it's costing us too much to remain competitive on the Island,” he said.

He said in the Pacific Northwest of the U.S., they are producing 63,000 pounds per acre of potatoes, whereas the average on P.E.I., is almost half that, at 33,000 pounds.


Robert Irving (CBC)

Irving said this puts Cavendish Farms at a major disadvantage.

He also warned that the future of Cavendish Farms and its 700 full-time employees is in the balance.

The P.E.I. Potato Board backed up Cavendish Farms and said irrigation would ensure the viability of the potato industry for the province.

“It's supply, quality and supply,” said vice president of agricultural affairs Blaine MacPherson.

Both the Irvings and the potato board said they want to be responsible with the Island's water resource and they pointed out the Cavendish Farms processing plant uses over 7,500 cubic meters of water a day, and there's never been a problem with other wells in the area.