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Current investigation into potato wart in PEI

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Potato wart in PEI: Findings in 2021

On October 1, 2021, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency's (CFIA) Charlottetown Laboratory confirmed potato wart after a suspect potato was submitted to the lab by a grower. On October 14, 2021, another finding was confirmed at a second farm, based on potatoes submitted to the lab.

Actions to prevent the spread of potato wart

On November 2, 2021, the movement of seed potatoes from PEI to the United States was suspended by the CFIA, as a result of the 2 October findings and the scope of the investigations.

We also decided that stronger measures were necessary to prevent the spread of potato wart to the rest of Canada and abroad. On November 21, 2021, a Ministerial Order was put in place to address these risks. The Order restricts the movement of seed potatoes from PEI, both internationally and domestically. It also introduces new risk mitigation measures for PEI table stock and processing potatoes, as well as other regulated 'things' such as soil, sod, and farming equipment.

International Advisory Panel on potato wart in PEI

The role of the Panel

Panel membership

The panel's report

The CFIA thanks all five members of the International Advisory Panel for their time and dedication in developing Recommendations of the International Advisory Panel on Potato Wart Disease management on Prince Edward Island 2022. This report presents details on the complexity of the current situation and extensive context for its recommendations. The full report should be read to understand the panel's recommendations.

While the report is advisory in nature and non-binding, it is one of many considerations that will help inform the CFIA's future decisions on potato wart management in Prince Edward Island (PEI). These decisions will be made in accordance with the CFIA's plant protection mandate through the administration and enforcement of Canada's Plant Protection Act and Regulations and the CFIA's role as Canada's National Plant Protection Organization under the International Plant Protection Convention.

The CFIA also thanks Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, the Fruit and Vegetable Growers of Canada, the Canadian Potato Council, the PEI Potato Board and the PEI Department of Agriculture and Land who collaborated with the CFIA to create the International Advisory Panel, including selecting panelists and developing terms of reference to guide its work. Effective management of potato wart requires all affected parties, including growers, industry, and provincial and federal governments, to work within their individual and joint areas of responsibility to mitigate the risks associated with this pest.

Investigation status

CFIA investigations into the recent 2021/2022 PEI potato wart findings follow the requirements of the Potato Wart Domestic Long Term Management Plan. The CFIA has completed its investigation related to the two 2021 detections of potato wart in PEI ahead of the September 2023 target date.

The CFIA collected and analyzed nearly 50,000 soil samples from fields in PEI associated with the detections. The investigation identified potato wart in four additional fields. In total, there have been 37 detections since 2000.

Below is a summary of the investigation details.

Final report

Timeframe Samples collected Samples analyzed Potato wart detections
October 7, 2021 to March 4, 2022 3,543 3,543 1
March 5, 2022 to June 30, 2022 17,163 5,327 0
July 1, 2022 to September 30, 2022 9,054 11,082 1
October 1, 2022 to December 31, 2022 14,935 8,812 1
January 1, 2023 to March 10, 2023 0 6,713 0
March 11, 2023 to June 23, 2023 4,094 10,499 1
June 2023 to July 2023 0 2,813 0
Total 48,789 48,789 4

Increasing capacity for investigation

The CFIA hired more staff to collect soil and test soil samples and, trained more of their employees to be able to work on soil testing. In addition, the CFIA retrofitted new lab space in PEI to have more space in which to conduct the testing.

To accelerate the investigation, the CFIA recruited qualified laboratory technicians and soil samplers.

The Ministerial Order

The Minister put the Order in place to provide the CFIA with regulatory authorities to prevent the spread of potato wart within Canada. These requirements are critical to limiting the spread and maintaining confidence in our plant health system.

The Ministerial Order does not prohibit the export of products out of Canada. Importing requirements are defined by the importing countries, including the United States.

Trade has resumed to the United States (U.S.)

On November 22, 2021, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) advised U.S. border services to reject shipments of PEI potatoes. At this point, the CFIA was unable to certify potato shipments for export, in accordance with the Plant Protection Regulations, because they no longer met the importing country's requirements.

On April 1, 2022, the USDA-APHIS announced that imports of PEI potatoes for consumption can now resume to the U.S. with conditions. Field grown seed potatoes from PEI may not be exported to the U.S. at this time.

This decision follows several months of technical discussions between the CFIA and USDA-APHIS, through which the Agency shared scientific information and reports to support APHIS' risk assessment exercise to enable the resumption of trade.

The Government of Canada worked hard to resolve this situation

The Government of Canada worked diligently to address concerns from the U.S. so this issue could be resolved as quickly as possible, including:

The history of potato wart in PEI

Potato wart was first found in a PEI field in 2000. It resulted in the closure of the U.S.–Canada border for all fresh PEI potatoes, including seed and table stock, for 6 months. The Potato Wart Domestic Long Term Management Plan was also put in place. The Plan outlines the mandatory minimum survey, testing, and surveillance activities required to mitigate the risk of spread of potato wart outside of the restricted areas in PEI.

Since the first finding, the CFIA has surveyed for potato wart annually in PEI. This includes surveying all fields used to produce potatoes in the province for the first 3 years after the initial finding. These surveys indicated that the pest was not widespread at that time.

If potato wart is detected, land controls are put in place on individual fields to restrict the movement of potatoes, plants, soil, and other articles that could result in the spread of potato wart outside of the regulated fields. The CFIA monitors approximately 1,000 fields a year for potato wart.

The CFIA laboratory in Charlottetown is responsible for confirming potato wart in samples submitted by CFIA staff and by growers. This facility is designed to prevent the spread of potato wart.

In 2003, the Potato Wart Compensation Regulations were enacted to compensate specific, confirmed losses due to treatment, prohibition, restriction or disposition related to potato wart. The regulations do not compensate for potential revenue loss that has yet to occur.

In 2015, the U.S. put in place a Federal Order that outlines specific mitigation measures required for the movement of table stock, bulk, unwashed and seed potatoes from PEI to the U.S. Since then, import requirements for seed potatoes include mandatory soil testing within 1 year of harvest. The mitigation measures for table stock potatoes grown from a field where potato wart is not known to occur include:

In 2021, the CFIA enhanced its National Surveillance Program with additional soil samples taken in every seed potato-producing region of Canada.

The science-based mitigation measures undertaken by the CFIA, along with the Potato Wart Management Plan, were designed to remove the risk pathways for potato wart to spread. This has allowed PEI to move hundreds of millions of dollars worth of potatoes off the island.

PEI is an important supplier of fresh potatoes to the domestic market with the bulk of the shipments going to:

Public enquiries

Public enquiries are welcome throughout the process. Find contact information for CFIA offices.

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