Alberta Officially Free of Potato Cyst Nematode
Trade prospects have improved for Alberta potato Growers, as the province has been deemed free of potato cyst nematode (PCN). PCN is a federally regulated quarantine pest in Canada. It has the potential to dramatically reduce potato yields. Alberta is the largest exporter of seed potatoes in Canada. According to the Potato Growers of Alberta, 50% of seed potatoes grown on 10,000 acres in the province are exported, with the majority earmarked for the United States and international markets. So, even the suspected presence of PCN can be a challenge for producers looking to export their products.
The province being declared free of PCN, is the result of a team effort between an affected farm, the Government of Alberta, Potato Growers of Alberta, Canadian Agricultural Partnership (CAP) programming and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA).
In 2007, the CFIA placed two fields in Alberta under a Notice of Prohibition, after routine testing raised suspicion PCN presence. It effectively halted production of potatoes in the fields, as well as years of restrictions and surveillance followed across the province.
Other Alberta potato farmers were eventually able to resume export of seed potatoes to the U.S. in January 2009. However, the issue has continued to impact international market access for Alberta seed potatoes. Alberta’s government helped procure funding to get seed potatoes back in the ground. In total, 39 farmers, including the 2 with suspect presence of PCN, received CAD16m in federal-provincial assistance.
After more than a decade, the CFIA has removed the restrictions, after 2020 tests all came back negative. This announcement will help Alberta regain its billion dollar industry through market access and will lead to fewer restrictions, as growers pursue new markets.