Cavendish Farms warns it faces same challenges as McCain Foods

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French fry giant says it is committed to P.E.I., but without deep-water wells could face an uncertain future

McCain Foods’ biggest competitor in the french fry market says it is facing the very same challenges – currency, competition and costs – as its rival.

Ron Clow, vice president of Cavendish Farms, says his company remains committed to P.E.I., but he called on the P.E.I. government to ensure it has access to deep-water wells to ensure its survival.

Cavendish Farms has warned its plants on the Island could be in jeopardy if deep-water wells are not approved. The province is currently studying the issue.

Clow said his company invests in its employees and technology.

“We also need a sustainable source of water to grow potatoes,” Clow said in a statement emailed to The Guardian.  

“The fact is that the yield from P.E.I. potato fields is lagging behind the rest of North America due to a lack of certain water supply.  This means less money for the farmer per acre, and less potatoes for Cavendish to process.”

Cavendish Farms employs 600 workers and buys potatoes from 92 family farms.

Clow said Thursday’s news that McCain is leaving P.E.I. is very difficult news for many Island neighbours.

“We need to consider what this says regarding the very real challenges facing the sector and what it takes to sustain good paying food production jobs on P.E.I.”

Organizations: McCain Foods

Geographic location: P.E.I., Iceland, North America

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Recent comments

  • by stander
    August 08, 2014 - 17:50

    Wow, have you looked at your roads lately??? you're unemployment rate on this island??? If I am not wrong the agriculture industry is the largest employer on this island... I think that Mc Cain's closure is the result of you all voting in the wrong provincial and federal leaders!!! Yes the government is responsible. And Organic farming is not the answer, it is small marked and the demand is not there for all these farmers to switch. That is in the hand of YOU the Consumer. Yes buy Canadian grown beef, pork, chicken and Potato's. stop shopping at Wall-Mart!! and STOP blaming the farmers they are just growing what you buy and pay for. If you want organic food, go ahead and buy it. The consumer is in control, I bed that the average islander is not able to afford feeding their families all organic produce??? and who fault is that.. Still organic produce is not and wont be for a while, the largest section in the grocery store. PEI has to step out of their Ann of green Gable dream and focus on the own people and yes allow Irrigation and loosen up on the IRAC laws!!! I bed that most of these comments are from people who have a government paying job. LOL

  • Peter
    August 08, 2014 - 17:22

    I wouldn't be surprised if McCain Foods and Cavendish farms were in this together ... McCain shuts down (smallest operation), Ghiz is concerned, Irving threatens shutdown, Ghiz panics, Irving gets the deep water wells it wants, McCain restarts operation, PEI gets screwed again.

  • Peter
    August 08, 2014 - 16:19

    Ron Clow, vice president of Cavendish Farms, says his company remains committed to P.E.I., but he called on the P.E.I. government to ensure it has access to deep-water wells to ensure its survival. Okay ... so what is this other than a veiled threat? McCain's shut down because of under-utilization/demand for spuds ... Now Irving is saying they need deep-water wells to be able to produce MORE spuds? And if they don't get what they want they're going to leave?... THIS IS A THREAT! I say, "So let them leave, and they can leave the billions of bucks they make from PEI behind too". Actually, I dare them!

  • Call me stupid
    August 08, 2014 - 16:06

    I'm not a farmer and obviously I'm not a businessman, but why the big push from the Irvings on deep water wells anyway? I can see how a farmer would in the long run spend less on fuel, fertilizer etc, if yields (hundred-weight per acre) increased, but can they afford the $200,000 or so per well? A better question: how will greater yields help a plant that basically runs at maximum capacity as it is? The New Annan plant can only process so many spuds, and the Irvings pay so much per hundred-weight (with bonuses for quality in all likelyhood). Will the Irvings expand operations to take on the extra potatoes, or will they just pit farmer against farmer, reduce the number of contracts and/or pay less per hundred-weight? Perhaps I'm missing something.

  • patrick
    August 08, 2014 - 13:16

    2 words for all you cheering that Cavendish farms would go else where. - Heinz -Leamington. Wonder what you homes would be worth if the potato industry collapsed?

    • Newton res
      August 08, 2014 - 17:39

      My house would be worth a lot more without the Ag minister's toxic pesticide laced potato field butting up against my property. These guys cut down woods & rip out hedgerows to plant potatoes from ditch to ditch. Insanity....

    • by stander
      August 08, 2014 - 18:35

      Newton res. I think live in the big city is far better for you, maybe you can buy a house close to a golf course instead of these "potato fields" butting up against your house... but then maybe not, don't they too use artificial fertilizers and herbicides for their greens???

    • patrick
      August 08, 2014 - 21:36

      I don't think so. @Newton res

    August 08, 2014 - 12:19

    Goodbye Irving ! The price farmers get for potatoes should now go up . Government should help farmers get into production of a different crop such as soybeans or baking beans .The days of a nickel a pound potato can now be behind us , diversify ,some go organic and above all avoid another monopoly like we have in the fishery .

  • Organic Supporter
    August 08, 2014 - 11:46

    I read not long ago in a larger newspaper from out west that Kensington, PEI has the 2nd worst air quality in all of Canada. I imagine the main cause of this is the insane amount of potato fields and the polution from the plants. Adios Cavendish! Consumers are voting with their dollars and "conventionally" grown potatoes and french fries and falling off of the menu.

  • Joe Blow
    August 08, 2014 - 11:34

    Time to control our own destiny. We should buy the McCain plant to process our own potatoes. Switch to organic methods of farming. Change/create laws that make it illegal for restaurants/groceries to sell off island potatoes or fries. (Jamaica did this with their beef industry.) Irvings can fear-monger somewhere else. And if they want to start pressuring the public and politicians I suggest we be selective when choosing where to fill up our tanks.

    • Whatever..
      August 08, 2014 - 12:31

      Make it illegal to sell off Island potatoes? Good luck with that one. We do live in Canada and everyone has rights. As for you taking over McCain and making the Island organic, good luck with that one too. It is obvious that you have no clue about how to run a business or how to farm organic with statements like that.

    • Linda Dunne
      August 08, 2014 - 16:31

      Good Bye

    • Jeff
      August 09, 2014 - 09:02

      WOW... Really?? Change laws?? Illegal?? What kink of fairy-tale world are you living in? The Irvings employ so many people in Atlantic Canada. Lets all band together and make sure we all have to go on social assistance or head to another part of Canada... Get Real...

  • Former Islander
    August 08, 2014 - 11:10

    Please make sure to vote Guiz in with a majority. Perhaps they can throw hundreds of thousands of islanders tax dollars into turning these plants into in door music festivals that help the island economy.... Year round.

  • Islander
    August 08, 2014 - 10:34

    The island is no place for big industry. They'll take everything we have here if we let them. Let's not let them take our water. Speak up and show up. Otherwise Ghiz will just give it away and we'll have to listen to his whiny voice telling us how it's the best thing for the Island. Ugh.

  • To Be Expected
    August 08, 2014 - 09:32

    To be expected , didn't take long for Irving to jump & push the black mail of shutting down unless we let them ruin the only real resource we still have . (CLEAN DRINKING WATER) Them being here under their terms is not worth selling the Island out on the population that calls this home . I lived in Borden when McCains came to PEI & if I recall correctly . They came using their own MONEY , not like the Irving's . who wouldn't do anything if Government (the peoples ) money wasn't given to them . I'm sorry to see McCains go as they were a good company as they are still showing with the offers they are making available to their employees . If we have to sell our soul to keep Irving's here , it's not worth it & any island politician that goes for it should be banned from ever living on this wonderful Island . We survived before Irvings & will again after they go . Bottom line is , if they are making money they will stay even without my money so let's let the chips fall where they might . Other companies will come to replace them if the potato industry is viable on PEI . Just look at this part of PEI's past . Lost 700-800 job's when Joe sold out our railroad , ????? job's lost when air base closed in Summerside & still this area of our people picked up their socks & survived quite well . There good people & can make it even without Irving . They sure surprised me after these two setbacks .

  • Sandy
    August 08, 2014 - 09:31

    The big potato farms are a blight on the Island. When I return to my old community I see where the groves were plowed under and once proud farm houses and barn now stand with roofs caved in. Too much trouble apparently to sell the buildings so the big potato companies just let them cave in. Why are there no laws requiring them to keep up the buildings or sell them. Someone said there were laws to raze the buildings falling down but if so they are certainly not being carried out. Legislators asleep at the wheel for not making growers responsible for upkeep.

    • Not fair
      August 08, 2014 - 12:27

      It is not fair to lump all big potato farms into one big, nasty stereotype. Potato farms need to be big and efficient, to pay for the overpriced heavy equipment needed. When paid less than pennies a pound, volume needs to be huge to make any profit. You wonder why there are no small family farms anymore? It is the same people who won't pay for anything local or organic because it is too expensive that are complaining about big corporations.

      August 08, 2014 - 12:55

      Sandy...I couldn't agree more. This is not the Gentle Island that tourisim wants you to think.In fact, it is anything but gentle. What those big french fry companies from away have done to the quality of life? is abhorent! So sad to see all those nice farms and hedge rows that gave the Island its bucolic appeal rotting into the ground, all in the name of big french fries. If the yeild per acre is greater in Washington than it is here, it's not because they have deep water wells, it's because they haven't burnt the land up with all their chemicals. All one has to do to see the devastation deep wells have caused, just look up what is now happening in California, maybe they will change their minds and get their heads out of their a@@es. No 600 jobs is worth poisoning our air, water and fish kills and endangering the future generations chance to live here. Big Industry has no conscience, just look at the rest of the world.

  • Janice Martell
    August 08, 2014 - 09:17

    I wondered how long it would take the Irvings to use this devastating news from McCain Foods to try and get their sought after deep water wells.

  • voter
    August 08, 2014 - 08:54

    it is a big world -- who in their right mind thinks that potato growers can not sell to some other groups --

    • Brian
      August 08, 2014 - 09:27

      Me. Why not ask a Farmer. The potato industry is very competitive and PEI farmers struggle to to achieve a 300 cwt per acre while in Washington state for example the yield is double that per acre. Farmers are not stupid if there were other markets out there they would be on top of it.

    • voter
      August 08, 2014 - 13:25

      well well well farmers spray the top of the ground to get better crops and they still can't compete -- now they want to screw the water too for the sake of money !!! go grow some soy beans or other crop or try a new occupation like others do when they lose their jobs If the americans can grow more potatoes then why not compete on quality since they have the quantity wrapped up -- FRIES ARE JUNK FOOD

  • lloyd
    August 08, 2014 - 08:29

    And when are you folks moving on Mr Clow?

  • Good riddance
    August 08, 2014 - 08:23

    French fries industry poisons environment on every step of the production process. Eventually it poisons people eating those fries. I am glad to see that in developed world there are less people willing to feed to their children pesticide sprayed potatoes. This is the real problem for french fries industry - people getting educated and refusing to ingest their poison.

    August 08, 2014 - 08:21

    What is next with the Irvings. first it was the potatoes were not big enough now there will be a shortage. What is wrong with the potatoes that McCains were buying? I am sure that the farmers will want to sell them. Another threat to get their deep water wells.

  • MFH
    August 08, 2014 - 07:58

    Here we go !!! McCain's were good corporate citizens who would stand on their own two feet and do business without support from taxpayers. These guys (Irving ) are a bunch of bandits. They are going to make a bad situation worse.

  • Lindsay
    August 08, 2014 - 07:54

    And here come the threats. Give us your water supply or lose more jobs. What a bunch of mobsters.

  • bob from cardigan
    August 08, 2014 - 07:46

    who didn't see this stupid thing coming. as the otehr poster said, just go. we don't need you poluting our future for your short term gain. rather be poor than polutted and without fresh water. good riddence. Go already you greedy corporation.

  • Dave Johnston
    August 08, 2014 - 07:38

    We better make absolutely sure how deep water wells on PEI will effect our water supply going forward. It will be a huge mistake to allow deep water wells in favor of a large corporation that will in the end close their plant anyway. Just look at what McCain's just did. McCain's just closed their plant due to the impact of the stronger Canadian Dollar and production decline. Large corporations in the end will do what is best for their shareholders.

  • townie22
    August 08, 2014 - 07:38

    aaaand it begins, that didn't take long.

  • therod
    August 08, 2014 - 07:33

    Couldn't see this coming....hah They will do whatever they can to get our water and they have the power to get it.

  • knewittoo
    August 08, 2014 - 07:16

    Same here...It is becoming obvious that this whole fiasco has been planned for probably quite some time. The sad thing, I bet the government who was voted in to listen / protect in our best interest are no doubt counting their dirty Cavendish dollars. Go away forever will not be missed as you are not wanted !!!

  • How It Is
    August 08, 2014 - 06:54

    Dear Farmers, There is no future in potatoes. The writing is on the wall and you may want to consider growing something else. Or you may want to consider organics. There are other options where you don't have to live under threats from greedy industry. The only thing standing in your way of making that change is you.

  • Islander
    August 08, 2014 - 06:24

    This is what I expected from Irving to jump on the opportunity to push there agenda of deep water wells.

  • sammy
    August 08, 2014 - 06:16

    Give me what I want or I will take my ball and go home...... they already gutted the work shifts last year so there really isn't much left in New Annan

  • What We Need
    August 08, 2014 - 06:09

    This is just what we need. Go! The potato industry won't be happy until they either destroy or TAKE all of our water. For the love of PEI, GO!

  • Knew it
    August 08, 2014 - 06:00

    Soon as I heard the McCain announcement I knew the first thing we would hear is this threat from Cavendish Farms.

    • Yep..
      August 08, 2014 - 07:40

      Yes, I thought that too. This is the exact fodder they need to black mail the government for wells. They will also be the blackmailing the farmers; no deep water well, no contract. Very loyal to the Island..

      August 08, 2014 - 08:49

      Let them go! Maybe then the earth can heal itself. The damage that these two companies have caused the gentle idland may never be reversed. If this Island government is that concerned over 600 jobs, then they don't have the moral right to govern. The last time I looked, there were 140,000 other people on the Island, don't we count for anything? As Moses said, "Let my people go".

  • don
    August 08, 2014 - 05:35

    clow you said “We also need a sustainable source of water to grow potatoes,” . well we also need water to grow. can you or your boss's guarantee all islanders 100% that we will always have fresh water after you all drain it? and what if we have a drought then what ? is your boss's going to truck in fresh water for islanders?