Canada has halted all shipments of potatoes from Prince Edward Island to the United States after the discovery of the highly transmissible fungus synchytrium endobioticum – better known as potato wart – in commercial fields.

“The U.S. potato industry appreciates the (Canadian Food Inspection Agency) for acting quickly and recognizing the dire threat to the U.S. and Canadian potato industries should potato wart be spread beyond Prince Edward Island,” said National Potato Council President Dominic LaJoie.

The danger to the U.S. potato farmers is immense, according to NPC, which said foreign buyers would likely immediately ban American potatoes if the fungus were to take hold in U.S. potato fields. That would cause losses of more than $225 million in annual sales, the group said.

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Canada found the fungus in its potato seed fields last year and as a result stopped shipping to the U.S. for several months. That’s a challenge for U.S. farmers, many of whom rely on Canadian seeds, National Potato Council CEO Kam Quarles told Agri-Pulse. The U.S. industry also processes a lot of potatoes from Prince Edward Island.

“This is bad news for us,” Quarles said, but stressed it would be much worse if potato wart made it into U.S. fields. “If wart was established in a production area in the U.S., our trading partners would just shut the door almost instantaneously. That’s the real fear.”

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