Today, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) announced measures to prevent the spread of potato wart from Prince Edward Island (PEI).
Potato wart, a fungus that has been present in some continents for over a century, was first detected in PEI in 2000.
It is important to note that 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.
Since that initial detection, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has surveyed for potato wart annually in PEI and introduced the Potato Wart Domestic Long Term Management Plan with the objective to mitigate the risk of spread of potato wart outside of the restricted areas in PEI.
When potato wart is detected, land restriction controls are put in place on individual fields to restrict the movement of potatoes, plants, soil, and other articles that could result in the spread of potato wart outside of the regulated fields.
On October 1 and 14, 2021, the CFIA Charlottetown Laboratory confirmed the presence of potato wart on two different PEI farms. This follows previous detections in 33 fields across all three PEI counties since 2000.
The two detections showed high levels of potato wart, and made it necessary to take Canada’s strongest action against potato wart to date.
On November 2, 2021, the movement of seed potatoes from PEI to the U.S. was suspended.
A Ministerial Order has since been put in place, reinforcing these decisions and supporting Canada’s international obligations to control potato wart and mitigate risk to prevent the spread of quarantine pests. Specifically, the Order restricts the movement of seed potatoes from PEI and introduces new risk mitigation measures for PEI table stock and processing potatoes.
These measures, which may include requirements such as brushing and washing potatoes to remove any soil, are expected to mitigate the risk of spread of potato wart. At the same time, they will allow PEI 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. 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 PEI potato industry.
Due to the October findings, the U.S. notified Canada that they would impose a Federal Order banning all imports of fresh potatoes from PEI for an undetermined period of time, unless Canada takes voluntary action immediately.
In response to these concerns expressed by the U.S. Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA APHIS), the CFIA has suspended the movement of fresh potatoes from PEI 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 CFIA will continue to work closely with the U.S. to address their concerns with a view to minimizing impacts to trade. The CFIA is committed to demonstrating that through strong risk mitigation measures, the trade of table stock and processing potatoes presents a negligible risk.
The U.S. has committed to ongoing technical discussions with the CFIA and details from the ongoing 2021 potato wart investigations will be shared.
PEI has a long history of producing the highest quality potatoes for Canadians and international consumers. The industry has weathered many changes over the years and PEI growers have been strong partners in the Government of Canada’s efforts to manage potato wart in Canada.
While efforts to resume full access for PEI fresh potatoes are underway, the Government of Canada is working on a plan to support potato growers impacted by this temporary market suspension. That includes cost-shared Business Risk Management programs and collaborative efforts to determine how to reroute existing stock in storage in PEI. We will also work with the province of PEI to determine what additional supports may be required to support impacted producers.
Together, industry, provincial and federal governments have and will continue to work to contain the spread of potato wart and support ongoing trade of the high quality potatoes produced by PEI.