New ad campaign warns of impending ‘spudpocalypse’, encroaching on potato supply and driving up prices in Massachusetts as PEI tubers hit a moratorium on exports.
“The shelves will soon be empty…help us stop the spudpocalypse,” screams a music video for the new advertising campaign website – spudpocalypse.com. The spot that also features a hand labeled “USDA” mashing cartoon potatoes like a crunchy rock guitar groove.
The campaign, from the PEI Potato Board – an industry group for potato growers in the Canadian province – aims to increase public pressure here in potato-starved Massachusetts after Canadian and US food safety authorities halted exporting potatoes from Prince Edward Island out of fear. of “potato wart”.
PEI’s version of Big Potato targets Massachusetts because the potato-loving Bay State has an inordinate number of PEI potatoes -Edward in the United States. One of the few big potato packers in the area says he’s right.
Greg Maheris, who runs potato distributor J Maheris Co. in Chelsea, said he saw a drop of around 30% in the total number of incoming potatoes. He normally sees over 70,000 pounds of PEI potatoes. this leads to fewer potatoes at higher prices, especially in concert with a poor growing year in the West amid heat, fires and transportation problems.
“It’s going to be awful – the store shelves are already empty,” said Maheris, who operates out of the New England Produce Center in an industrial area of the city sandwiched between the Mystic Mall and the former King Arthur’s Lounge.
He said there were only a handful of people left in the area who were doing what he was doing, which was importing potatoes, sorting them, packing them and sending them to grocery stores.
“Potatoes have always been a great, cheap ingredient to put on the table, and now that might change,” he said.
Prince Edward Island potatoes landed in hot water last fall when the so-called potato wart disease broke out in a few fields. It is a known disease and Prince Edward Island stud farms say they have various quarantine and surveillance measures in place to limit outbreaks. The fungus-borne disease has been around for a few decades there.
Canada, fearing that its potato trade with the United States would soon be trapped, voluntarily imposed a moratorium on the export of potatoes from Prince Edward Island, which resulted in the current supply.
The United States, which has no “potato wart” anywhere, claims that it is trying to protect its own spuds. Prince Edward Island farmers say the disease was limited to a few fields that are not intended for “table” potatoes. The rest of the harvest is going well.
“It happened with an overabundance of caution,” said Greg Daniels, chairman of the PEI Potato Board, who suggests the United States is taking advantage of this situation to give domestic potato growers a boost. “We had this disease. It’s not new — we have a management plan.
Massachusetts is the second-largest U.S. market for PEI potatoes, typically second only to Puerto Rico – although the Bay State was actually number one for the 2020 season. -2021, gobbling up 768,593 pounds out of the 2,637,735 pounds sent to the United States. It’s about 29%.
Governor Charlie Baker’s office did not respond to a request for comment on the potato. Massachusetts itself has a few potato farms, mostly in the west, but a number of a Bay State potato industry organization was inactive. The state’s potato production is figuratively small potatoes compared to Idaho, Prince Edward Island, and Maine.
“We’re in a bit of a pickle,” said potato supplier Bill Enserick of Red Isle Produce Co. in Prince Edward Island.
He said 95% of the spuds he moves go to the United States, “so what we’re doing right now is 95% nothing.”