Former seed farm manager says P.E.I. should maintain disinfection program

Eric McCarthy
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ALBERTON - A former manager of the P.E.I. Elite Seed Potato Farm says he’s been hearing there have been no outbreaks of bacterial ring rot in Island potatoes in five years.

“That’s a good news story,” says Allan Parker, who managed the seed farm until 1997 and is still involved in the potato industry internationally.

But, to Parker, the good news story is tempered by the provincial government’s decision to discontinue its potato disinfection services by year’s end.

He suggests it’s time for industry and government to take a step back and consider how best to protect the industry, not just from bacterial ring rot but also new strains of old bacterial diseases that have re-emerged in Europe in recent years.

“If they ever got a foothold in North America they would be extremely problematic for any seed production area,” he warned.

RELATED: P.E.I. government axes potato disinfection services

The P.E.I. Potato Board is critical of the provincial government’s decision.

“Prince Edward Island has long held a well-earned reputation for high quality potato seed which could be jeopardized by this decision to completely eliminate disinfection services,” the board advised.

The board resists having the industry take over the entire cost of disinfection, suggesting it would affect the viability of seed potato growers.

“It’s time they took a look at the bigger picture and identified the potential, and real threats as well, and then sort out what’s the best way to approach the whole thing and get value for money,” Parker said.

The Progressive Conservative opposition criticized the government’s decision, suggesting it will weaken the Island’s food safety system.

Parker suggested the P.E.I potato industry’s success in dealing with bacterial ring rot might provide an opportunity for the industry to re-enter some of its past seed potato markets in eastern and western Europe.

He recalls that P.E.I. used to enjoy active seed export markets in places like Portugal, Italy and Spain.

“Freedom from ring rot would be an important part of that,” he said, adding the Island would have a better chance of making those inroads if it maintains its disinfection program.

Organizations: P.E.I. Potato Board

Geographic location: Prince Edward Island, Europe, North America Portugal Italy Spain

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Recent comments

  • Farmers should pay
    November 24, 2015 - 19:59

    If its so important then let the farmers pay for it. A business is a business. Stop forking over my tax dollars to pay for everyone elses "in jeopardy" business. Do like every other business, sink or swim on your own! I would like my tax dollars to go to roads, education, healthcare, etc. You farmers are a private business. Swim on your own or SINK! Simple! Next thing you know every private business will be propped up by our tax dollars. If you can't afford to keep your business running properly on your own, then sell the business and go get a job like the rest of us poor folk who can't ask the government for handout money to stay afloat! I can't pay my credit card this month, you see me cryin like a little sookie to government to pay it for me? NO! Its called taking responsibility for what you want in your own life. Like I did, and the rest of us taxpayers have to do daily. I for one am sick of you private business owners cryin for taxpayers to help save you butts. Its a business, if you can't afford to run it, shut it down and get a real job that doesn't constantly require you to ask the poor taxpayer to fork over more to you. Go get a bank loan like the rest of us! Or do without! Like the rest of us!

  • jacinta
    November 24, 2015 - 12:04

    This industry brings millions to the island in revenue and salaries, why would they put that in jeopardy. Shame on you.

  • UPWESTER
    November 24, 2015 - 10:27

    This story was in the paper more than a week ago. Is that all the news there is on PEI?