Farmers waiting for details of P.E.I. potato export resumption
'We really hope it's days away, not weeks away'
P.E.I. farmers are overjoyed to hear the ban on potato exports to the U.S. mainland looks to be finally coming to an end, but growers are still waiting for details about what that trade resumption will entail.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) signaled in a release on Thursday that table potatoes from P.E.I. would be allowed into the U.S. soon.
The announcement is welcome news for farmers, who haven't been able to ship their products south of the border since the Canadian Food Inspection Agency halted exports back in November.
"[It's] really good news to hear," said Jason Webster of MWM Farms in Kinkora. "We're all going to wait and see here when the actual first load of potatoes gets over the border. We really hope it's days away, not weeks away."
Webster said he hopes to hear the full details on when trade can resume soon so farmers can plan for the spring planting season with "a little bit of confidence."
During an interview with CBC News: Compass, Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau said she'd spoken with her U.S. counterpart Tom Vilsack on Thursday and he said the borders could reopen "in a matter of days."
But some important details haven't been unveiled yet. APHIS said in the release trade may only resume under "specified conditions" that prevent potato wart from being introduced into the U.S.
Bibeau said the U.S. new requirements may be "more specific" about where the potatoes come from.
"We hope to hear from them in the next few days," Webster said.
"We're hoping we can work out towards making [P.E.I.'s potato wart management system] suit everyone in the future. And, you know, everything needs to be tweaked as we go along and we will certainly want to do that."
'We have to believe in the system'
Ray Keenan of Rollo Bay Holdings said the resumption of trade seems to be on time according to what the U.S. had previously indicated when it let P.E.I. potato exports to Puerto Rico resume.
"We have to believe in the system," he said. "It does work, but it works slowly. And this is what's happened."
In the meantime, Keenan said farmers are dealing with other factors such as high fertilizer and fuel costs.
"This will be the most expensive crop of potatoes that's ever been grown in North America, for sure," he said.
"Given the supply of potatoes that we still have on hand, we need a fairly long runway here to move the rest of this crop. And we would have to hope — and hope is not a plan — that we have to work towards getting many of these potatoes to the U.S.
"The U.S. market is where these potatoes are needed for the foreseeable future. And there's a home for them, if we can find the transportation."
With files from Island Morning