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Bags of Prince Edward Island potatoes are unloaded from a transport truck, in Ottawa, on Dec. 8.Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press

Prince Edward Island farmer Mark Craig says he plans to keep his potatoes in storage until the federal government reverses the export ban to the United States or until he’s compensated for his losses.

Mr. Craig, who farms nearly 65 hectares of potato fields, said Wednesday he has about 100 trailer truckloads of potatoes stored away and that he’s worried about their fate.

“It’s just a shame to have to even think about destroying this crop,” he said in an interview.

Mr. Craig and other farmers on the Island now face the possibility of having to destroy their potatoes, as they near the fourth week since Canada banned all exports of fresh potatoes from the Island to the U.S. after fungal potato wart was found in two fields in the province.

Canadian officials have said the U.S. would have imposed a ban – that would have been harder to reverse – had Canada not done so first.

Mr. Craig said he hopes the federal government will buy his potatoes and deliver them to people in need across the country. Otherwise, he said he would like Ottawa to compensate farmers if they have to destroy their crops.

Randy Visser, owner of G. Visser and Sons, said in an interview that some producers have taken to sending potatoes to food banks across the province as a way to use up excess crops.

“Every home we can find that can utilize these potatoes before they’re destroyed is absolutely the priority,” Mr. Visser said.

Mr. Visser said he has about 18 million kilograms of potatoes and would usually be shipping more than 540,000 kilograms a week across the border.

Mr. Craig said he’s trying to sell some of his potatoes domestically, but the existing stock from growers in other provinces has driven down prices.

Depending on the length of the ban, some potatoes in storage may need to be destroyed, a process that involves putting them through a snowblower during the colder months so that the pieces can freeze and decompose safely.

It’s crucial that the potatoes are ground in frosty conditions, said John Visser of Victoria Potato Farm in an interview. The cold helps kill off the living flesh of the potato safely, preventing bug infestations and pathogen spread.

Mr. Visser said he’s also struggling to find a home for his potatoes, adding that about 60 per cent of his yearly harvest is usually earmarked for American markets.

“Our options are just about nil,” he said. “What we’ve lost in four weeks of the market already? You cannot gain that back.” He said it’s almost certain some of the Island’s potatoes will be destroyed.

This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

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