P.E.I. can resume exporting potatoes to Puerto Rico Wednesday

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On Nov. 21, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency suspended the fresh potato trade to the United States and its territory of Puerto Rico. (Shane Hennessey/CBC - image credit)

On Nov. 21, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency suspended the fresh potato trade to the United States and its territory of Puerto Rico. (Shane Hennessey/CBC – image credit)

The United States has agreed to let imports of P.E.I. table stock potatoes to Puerto Rico resume as of Wednesday.

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack made the announcement in a news release Tuesday.

“It is critical that we base our agricultural trade decisions on sound science,” Vilsack said in the release. “After considering Puerto Rico’s low risk for potato wart due to climate conditions, as well as the lack of a commercial potato production industry on the island, we are confident that with appropriate mitigations in place this trade can resume safely, and the U.S. potato industry will remain protected.”

Certain conditions regarding matters such as labelling will apply as potato shipments resume to the U.S. territory, according to the office of Canadian Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau.

On Nov. 21, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency suspended the export of fresh P.E.I. potatoes to the United States and its territory of Puerto Rico following the discovery of potato wart in two Island fields. At the time, CFIA officials said they were acting so that American officials didn’t impose a unilateral ban that would be harder to get lifted.

That decision brought to a sudden halt exports that are usually worth about $120 million per year to the P.E.I. economy.

On Jan. 27, Bibeau and P.E.I. MP Lawrence MacAulay met with Vilsack and his officials in Washington, D.C. to try to get the market reopened.

Tuesday’s news on the Puerto Rico front followed a call involving Bibeau and Vilsack.

“As the government of Canada has said all along, exports of P.E.I. table stock potatoes to Puerto Rico represent a negligible risk for the transmission of potato wart, given that Puerto Rico does not produce commercial potatoes and that we have strong and effective risk mitigation measures in place,” Bibeau said in an email statement to CBC.

Bibeau said the United States Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is currently working on an expedited manner on their analysis for importing P.E.I. table stock potatoes to the continental United States.

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