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P.E.I. ag minister defends potato growers

P.E.I. ag minister defends potato growers

Cavendish Farms closed a facility citing a potato shortage

By Diego Flammini
Staff Writer
Farms.com

Claims of a potato shortage in Prince Edward Island are not true, the province’s ag minister says.

Cavendish Farms announced on July 31 that it was closing its fresh produce packaging plant in O’Leary, P.E.I., because of “limited availability of potatoes on the island,” a news release said, CBC reports.

The closure would also affect the 40 people working at the plant.

But the province’s 350 potato farms are producing enough to meet Cavendish’s processing needs, says Robert Henderson, PEI’s ag minister.

“I would say (there’s not a shortage), in the respect we do grow 85,000 acres of potatoes in P.E.I.” he told CBC Aug. 1. “We have before grown in excess of 100,000 acres.”

Cavendish, however, wants more yield, not just more acres.

Cavendish was short about 68 million kilograms of potatoes in 2017, Ron Clow, general manager with the company, said in the release, The Canadian Press reported. The organization purchased potatoes from other provinces and Maine to make up its inventory. Cavendish also plans to import 29.4 million kilograms of potatoes this year.

“We’re doing a number of things to make sure we can try to get the maximum potential yield out of an acre of potatoes on P.E.I,” the minister told CBC. “We think we’ve got good soil conditions to do that.”

A lack of water may be contributing to the lower yields.

Prince Edward Island has a moratorium on deep-water wells, which Cavendish Farms wants lifted so producers can irrigate crops during dry seasons.

But the provincial government awaits research from the Canadian Rivers Institute before making any decisions.

Agriculture and Agri-Food’s recent drought report classified portions of P.E.I. as abnormally dry as of July 31.