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The Canadian Food Inspection Agency announced on Friday that Canada has completed an important step toward eventually resuming exports of fresh potatoes to the United States from the province of Prince Edward Island.
After discovering the potato wart fungus on two farms in October, Canada unilaterally halted shipments from the province in November, the first time in 21 years.
The US had threatened to ban all imports of fresh potatoes from the province unless Canada took further action, a move Ottawa says would be difficult to reverse. One request from the United States was for Canada to inspect seed potato fields for warts.
These are exported and grown to maturity, and the risk of contagion is increased if they have the wart. The CFIA conducted a national survey and found no warts in seed potatoes grown in fields not regulated by Ottawa. This, it claimed, was the information Washington sought.
“(This) was provided to the U.S. Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service earlier today, and should serve to provide reassurances they need that it is safe to resume the trade of fresh potatoes,” the CFIA said in a statement.”We do not anticipate that it will lead to any immediate change in the current prohibition,” it added, saying Washington was seeking other information.
This, the CFIA indicated, could take months to provide. The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service of the United States did not respond to a request for comment. In the United States, Friday is a federal holiday.
Potato wart can reduce crop yields but poses no risk to human health or food safety, according to the CFIA.In 2020, Prince Edward Island will produce approximately 20% of the national harvest. The crop is worth more than C$1 billion ($781 million) to the province’s economy every year.