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P.E.I. Potato Board pushing for a Canadian United Potato Grower branch

pushing for a Canadian United Potato Grower branch


April 15, 2008
By Caitlin McIntyre

Topics

Prince Edward Island potato
growers would benefit from a national United Potato Growers’
corporation, says Albert Wada, chairman of the organization’s American
branch and a potato producer from Idaho.

Prince Edward Island potato growers would benefit from a national United Potato Growers’ corporation, says Albert Wada, chairman of the organization’s American branch and a potato producer from Idaho.

Canadian potato growers must agree to form a United Potato Growers of Canada (UPGC) organization, thereby, joining the United Potato Growers of America (UPGA) in a legal partnership, Wada said during the annual meeting of the Prince Edward Island Potato Board, held mid-November in Charlottetown.

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He said if Canadian potato growers joined their American counterparts, they would be more profitable.

“There’s nothing wrong with being profitable as a grower,” Wada said. “We need to re-align our thoughts towards return on investment and sustainable profitability, and we can’t do that (independently). We’ve got to do it together. As growers, we must work together to plan production strategies like every other rational business does.”

In March of this year, seven provinces, excluding Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Saskatchewan, formed a UPGC Steering Committee. The committee will legalize a Canadian partnership with the U.S.

Garry Sloik, co-chair of the committee, said the committee will have drafted bylaws for an association, which the provinces can then agree on, by the end of November.

Ivan Noonan, another co-chair of the committee and general manager of the P.E.I. Potato Board, said the Canadian division of UPG should be formalized by early next year. This organization would simplify any legal issues with the U.S., he said.

‘The organization would allow us to talk to our American counterparts so that there is no legal liability,” he said. “It allows us to share information without any concern of legal action.”

Moreover, the Canadian organization could possibly resolve some of the trade issues growers face.

Potato growers on Prince Edward Island need this organization to be formalized, Noonan said. With the cost of production increasing over the past few years, and with growers receiving roll-over on processing contracts and below cost of production for their potatoes, they need a new direction, he added.

“If we miss this opportunity, it may never come again; certainly not in my lifetime,” Noonan said. “This pending organization is giving a lot of P.E.I. growers a tremendous boost, a tremendous ray of hope.”

Wada said by being united, the Canadian and American organizations can find pricing in a “fair and representative manner.

“United, the organizations can maintain sustainable profitability, vertical integration, co-operative wholesale purchasing, and an increased market,” he said.

Fear of change has prevented the formation of a Canadian United Potato Growers in the past, Wada said.

“If we stay stubborn and resist change, we’re going to be screwed,” Wada said. “One profitable year will be followed by several years of over-planting and (decreased) prices.”

Canadian potato growers have nothing to lose, except a fantastic opportunity, he said.

P.E.I. growers agreed to cut production by 10,000 acres during the 2005 season, resulting in an increase to potato prices. Wada was instrumental in the agreement to reduce potato acreage across North America.