Canada: Government Helps Redistribute Excess Potatoes
A new federal program aimed at redistributing surplus food during the COVID-19 pandemic is an initial step toward moving some of the thousands of tons of excess potatoes currently stuck in storage, on southern Alberta farms, producers say. However, farmers warn the program might not prove sufficiently funded, meaning large quantities of good-quality potatoes could still end up being turned out onto fields and left to rot this summer.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau recently announced the creation of a new surplus food purchase program, to assist farmers who have lost their markets due to COVID-19, while helping communities and families in need to get food.
The program, part of a total USD252m government investment in agriculture, announced by Trudeau on May 5, will help redistribute existing and unsold inventories of products, such as potatoes and poultry, both of which have suffered a collapse in demand, due to the pandemic.
While details of the federal government’s surplus food purchase program have not yet been announced, farmers welcomed the news. But there are concerns that the problem is so widespread, it may not be enough to help farmers until the market recovers, or to prevent good-quality potatoes from being turned out onto fields and plowed under.
Max Koeune, president and CEO of McCain Foods, said in a news release the company applauds the federal government for “listening and taking action.”
“McCain Foods was pleased to hear today’s announcement from the Canadian government, offering the much needed Surplus Food Purchase Program to Canada’s farmers at this difficult time. Over the recent weeks McCain, alongside potato farmers across the country, has been asking the government to participate in finding a solution for the large surplus of potatoes caused by the closure of restaurants due to coronavirus. We applaud the government for listening and for taking action. We are keen to see the details of the program, including timings. This support needs to be in place quickly, as potatoes in store are at risk of spoiling as the weather warms,” Koeune said.