Potato screening concern
Group of growers wants government to help pay for one central metal detection screening in Nova Scotia
A group of P.E.I. potato farmers who all sell potatoes to the same buyer do not believe it makes sense to each buy and install metal detectors to screen for inserted needles.
That’s why they want government funds dedicated for food tampering screening to go instead toward metal detectors at the one central location where all their thousands of potatoes are unloaded.
The problem is, that location is in Nova Scotia.
This is problematic because the bulk of government assistance being offered to farmers to purchase this equipment is coming from the federal Growing Forward 2 program. Each province’s allocation of funds from this program can only be spent in that province.
The issue was raised in the P.E.I. legislature this week. O’Leary-Inverness MLA Robert Henderson says several of the 15 growers who sell to buyer MD Potato in Nova Scotia live in his riding and have raised concerns about the cost and logistics of each farm installing metal detectors.
“They are concerned that their contracts could be jeopardized if they’re not able to guarantee a safe product and with this potato tampering issue that’s been going on throughout the Maritimes,” Henderson said.
“The fact that there’s 15 growers all sending their product to one location off-Island, they would like to be treated fairly by being able to access the available funding and put the equipment in one location versus put it in 15.”
The ongoing criminal investigation into nails and needles turning up in P.E.I. potatoes has been called a crisis by P.E.I. government officials and ‘food terrorism’ by the head of the potato board.
The potato industry recently raised its reward for information leading to an arrest to $500,000, but after months of investigating, no arrests have been made.
That’s why many Island farmers are now looking to install metal detectors, to ensure the public retains its trust in the safety of P.E.I.’s famous potatoes.
The federal and provincial governments have jointly dedicated more than $3 million to help farmers with the costs of installing security measures like metal detectors at their farms, but this help does not cover 100 per cent of these expenses.
That’s why Henderson says an exception for the funding should be made for the 15 growers who sell to the same buyer in Nova Scotia – to cut down on costs and also to help ensure these farmers do not lose their contracts.
“In my opinion, with all the inter-provincial cooperation that we’re talking about lately, it seems illogical to me that we couldn’t make the exception in this particular case to benefit these Island growers, which adds to minimizing our trade deficit in the province and improves the reputation of Canada’s Food Island.”
Agriculture Minister Alan McIsaac said he would be willing to speak with his counterparts in Nova Scotia to determine whether alternative solutions could be found.