Under the Surplus Potato Management Response Program, the PEI Potato Board has been working with three food security organizations, Food Banks Canada, Second Harvest and the Salvation Army, to use at least $3 million from the Emergency Food Security Fund to purchase surplus PEI potatoes from growers. The funding is covered by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada.
The act is part of an effort to distribute potatoes left sitting in PEI warehouses as a result of the export ban on PEI potatoes to the U.S. that was put in place last November.
By leveraging the existing networks of food banks across the country, these organizations aim to provide surplus potatoes to those facing food security challenges.
Through the program, there will be an estimate of 300 truckloads of potatoes shipped from coast to coast. This is an estimate of about 18,000,000 pounds of potatoes, which is approximately 6% of the total loss. Potatoes will be distributed based on availability of transportation, and the need from the food banks. Potatoes will also be diverted to processors, packers, dehydrators and other markets.
The Board’s role is to help connect these organizations with local potato growers and dealers to distribute the funds fairly, as well as make sure the products are ready and meet the requirements of the program.
“We are happy to be able to get these high quality potatoes, that shouldn’t have been restricted from their intended market, into the hands of those who need them. It’s been a small light spot in a dark time,” said Mark Phillips, PEI Potato Board marketing specialist.
In a negotiation among the Board and the three organizations, the price was set to ensure as much volume as possible makes it to those in need.
“This way, we are getting as many potatoes in the hands of people that need them, while still providing a benefit to our growers, who are experiencing a great loss due to the border closure,” Phillips said. “We appreciate all the hard work from the food bank organizations to make this happen. Without their efforts this program would not be possible.”
The cost of transportation and packing is also covered by the funding.