Greens question $4.7M for Cavendish Farms while other P.E.I. businesses offered loans
‘Why would they get a free handout?‘
P.E.I. Green MLA Michele Beaton had questions for the government in the legislature Thursday about its strategy for supporting business during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Beaton questioned why the government would give Cavendish Farms $4.7 million to help it process potatoes and not provide similar support for small businesses on the Island.
"They were offered loans," said Beaton.
"What was the difference between all those businesses and a corporation that's worth billions of dollars. Why would they get a free handout of $4.7 million?"
Agriculture Minister Bloyce Thompson said he has a different point of view on the money provided to Cavendish Farms.
"I look at the 180 potato farmers that were able to put a crop in the ground," said Thompson.
"It ensured the producers got paid, and it ensured that the potatoes got processed."
Thompson announced the funding April 23, saying at that time that the money would pay for shipping and storage of potatoes from the 2019 growing season "to help mitigate the potato surplus because of the market conditions related to COVID-19."
A spokesperson for the Department of Agriculture and Land told CBC News that as part of the arrangement, processor Cavendish Farms had agreed to process the 40 million kilograms of potatoes that didn't have a market.
Different point of view
Beaton agreed that she had a different point of view from Thompson.
"Why didn't that corporation step up and help the farmers that they had committed to purchase the potatoes from, instead of leaving them on the hook," she said.
Potato markets have been thrown into turmoil, with the demand for french fries down with the closure of restaurants, and demand for table potatoes up, since more people cooking from home.
Thompson said he has heard the french fry market is recovering, and Cavendish Farms may not spend all of the promised $4.7 million.