WESTERN PRODUCER — Five federal ministers will work to restore trade of fresh potatoes from Prince Edward Island.
Agriculture minister Marie-Claude Bibeau announced today that a ministerial co-coordinating committee would begin meeting next week to work on the issue.
The U.S. banned imports of P.E.I. potatoes Nov. 22 after the discovery of potato wart and has asked for data from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency's investigation, mitigation measures and ongoing monitoring in quarantined areas.
Bibeau will co-chair the committee with Ginette Petitpas Taylor, minister responsible for the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency. The other ministers are intergovernmental affairs minister Dominic LeBlanc, international trade minister Mary Ng and Lawrence MacAulay, a P.E.I. MP who is also veterans affairs minister.
A news release said the committee will "examine a range of issues, such as updates on the technical discussions to provide scientific assurance to the United States, the delivery of programs to support farmers, the progress of the Industry-Government Potato Working Group and advocacy efforts to access international markets."
The government has created an industry-government working group and announced up to $28 million in funding to manage surplus potatoes. The CFIA cannot certify P.E.I. potatoes for export because they don't meet requirements under plant protection regulations.
There is no risk to human health from the fungus, but it can remain dormant in the soil for up to 40 years and lead to reduced yield.
The U.S. is a major market for P.E.I. potatoes. Trade of processed potatoes is not affected by the ban.