P.E.I. seed potato growers backed for lost sales, costs

Pandemic compensation plan to take applications until mid-January

File photo of a Prince Edward Island potato field. (Onepony/iStock/Getty Images)

Seed potato growers on Prince Edward Island who lost sales this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, or have had to store or throw out stock, can soon apply for provincial compensation.

The provincial government on Monday announced $1.19 million for a new Seed Potato Recovery Program, for seed growers “who can demonstrate that they have incurred extraordinary costs associated with the pandemic.”

Seed potato growers found themselves with reduced demand at seeding time as processors, expecting significantly lower demand for potato products from the restaurant sector, announced cuts in contracted volumes for the 2020 season.

For P.E.I. alone, Statistics Canada in June estimated total potato seeded area at 84,500 acres, down 1.2 per cent.

The program is due to open for applications on Monday (Nov. 16) and will accept applications until Jan. 15, 2021. Eligible growers will need to be able to provide “adequate documentation” of losses incurred, the province said.

The program is expected to help cover losses in revenue experienced from lost seed potato markets, including seed potatoes sold at a lower value in another market, as well as losses that “resulted from disposal of seed potatoes.”

It’s also expected to help cover eligible growers’ “extraordinary costs” related to storing seed beyond its regular storage period, as well as costs related to disposal of seed potatoes.

The program will help cover up to 10 per cent of the value of seed potato lots, as well as electricity, interest and insurance costs for storing seed beyond its regular storage period, the province said.

It will also help cover costs related to grading and de-sprouting as well as transportation and disposal.

Losses in revenue related to production issues from 2019 are not eligible, the province said, nor are lost sales revenue or disposal costs from 2020 “without supporting documentation.”

“Seed growers are the foundation of a healthy potato industry, but this has been a hard year for the seed sector,” P.E.I. Potato Board chair Jason Hayden said Monday in the province’s release. “By putting relief dollars in the hands of these producers, this program will help ensure our industry remains strong and stable.”

Dry growing conditions are expected to reduce potato yields in P.E.I. for 2020, with the United Potato Growers of Canada predicting on Oct. 26 that the province’s production will be down by 15 per cent from 2019.

However, the group added, demand from processors is expected to be strong and seed potato supplies in Canada “could be tight for spring planting” in 2021. — Glacier FarmMedia Network

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