Irrigation debate in the spotlight as Cavendish Farms closes Canadian packaging plant

On July 30, potato processor Cavendish Farms announced that it will be closing its fresh potato packaging facility in the Canadian province of Prince Edward Island (P.E.I.), citing “limited availability of potatoes on the Island.” But provincial Agriculture Minister Robert Henderson says there is no shortage of potatoes on P.E.I. Asked by CBC News: whether the Island is facing a shortage, Henderson said, “I would say not, in the respect we do grow 85,000 acres of potatoes on P.E.I. We have before grown in excess of 100,000 acres.” “We’re doing a number of things to make sure we can try to get the maximum potential yield out of an acre of potatoes on P.E.I.,” the minister said. Asked if the survival of Cavendish Farms could be at stake over supplemental irrigation, Henderson said he thinks “it’s really a business decision.” 

High-capacity farm irrigation wells have been under a moratorium since 2002. Cavendish Farms recently reiterated its call to lift the moratorium. The research required to consider lifting the moratorium is not yet complete, the minister said. P.E.I. gets all its water from wells, and environmental groups supporting the moratorium are concerned high-capacity wells could affect both the quantity and the quality of what is available. Read more