Sudbury

Export ban on P.E.I. potatoes could open markets for Ontario farmers

An export ban on P.E.I. potatoes to the United States could mean demand for Ontario producers will grow, said a northern Ontario potato farmer. 

Potato wart discovered in two P.E.I. fields, halts exports

Dan Poulin owns Don Poulin Potatoes Inc. in Chelmsford. (Frédéric Projean/Radio-Canada)

An export ban on P.E.I. potatoes to the United States could mean demand for Ontario producers will grow, said a northern Ontario potato farmer. 

Dan Poulin, the owner of Don Poulin Potatoes Inc., based in Greater Sudbury's Chelmsford region, said Ontario producers will have a better idea next month if they will gain access to new markets in the United States, due to fallout from P.E.I.

On Monday the Canadian Food Inspection Agency ordered trade of P.E.I. potatoes be suspended after potato wart was discovered in two fields in the province. 

Potato wart disfigures potatoes and reduces crop yield, but Poulin said it is not harmful to humans.

It can spread to other potato farms, though, and affect their yields. 

"So it's a very big concern because of cross-contamination from land to land," Poulin said.

The P.E.I. Potato Board estimates the value of the province's potato exports to the U.S. at $120 million.

P.E.I. Premier Dennis King has objected to the suspension, saying it was based on politics and not on science.

While Poulin operates one of the largest potato farms in northern Ontario, he said he does not currently export his crops outside of the province. 

He said through testing officials could determine exactly which P.E.I. farms have been impacted by potato wart, and allow exports from other parts of the island..

"Maybe they can quarantine a specific place," he said. "Maybe the rest of the island is going to be okay." 

Because P.E.I. is a major potato exporter, Poulin said the Ontario Potato Board, of which he is a member, will watch the situation closely as it develops.

With files from Jonathan Pinto

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