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March 11, 1998
For immediate release

Seed Potato Sale To Ukraine

Agriculture and Forestry

Agriculture and Forestry Minister Eric Hammill today announced the first-ever commercial sale of Prince Edward Island seed potatoes to Ukraine. A total of 355 tonnes consisting of three varieties of genetically improved Elite seed, Russet Burbank, Atlantic and Superior, is being shipped to a network of seed growers in Ukraine for regeneration. The export sale, shipped by PEI Produce, is valued at more than a quarter of a million dollars.

The sale follows the successful completion of seed potato trials in Ukraine last year. The trials were organized by the Department of Agriculture and Forestry in cooperation with Monsanto Corporation, the world's leading company in the application of biotechnology to potato production.

"This sale to Ukraine reflects our objective to develop new and expanded markets for Prince Edward Island seed potatoes," said Mr. Hammill. "Ukraine is a major potato producing area and I am confident this will lead to further export opportunities in Romania, Russia, Poland, Turkey and other European countries where we have conducted trials as well. By providing these markets with genetically improved varieties, Prince Edward Island will have a major competitive advantage."

Ukraine produces 4.5 million acres of potatoes, but close to 40 percent is lost annually due to the Colorado Potato Beetle. The genetically improved varieties being shipped are resistant to the Colorado Potato Beetle.

Mr. Hammill said the export of genetically-improved seed marks the beginning of a new era for the Prince Edward Island potato industry. He said it opens up major opportunities to establish new markets, not only for seed potatoes, but as well for associated technologies, research and extension support. "In the past we have been successfully exporting a commodity; now we are beginning to export our experience and expertise covering all aspects of potato production, handling, storage and packaging," said the minister.

The department has established an arms-length company called Solanum-PEI to work in cooperation with Monsanto to develop markets for genetically-improved varieties grown in the province. Under the agreement, Prince Edward Island would propagate genetically-modified early generation seed of common varieties used in other areas of the world. "The partnership of Monsanto's technology and Prince Edward Island's expertise in seed potato production and disease control will enable us to offer entire seed systems to developing countries and to build long-term relationships with them," said Mr. Hammill. "Through Solanum-PEI, we will be able to bring together all sectors of the potato industry, including exporters, researchers, extension people, equipment suppliers and producers to offer our experience and expertise to developing potato growing regions."

This year, the minister said that private sector extension services in the areas of potato related information and business management expertise will be provided to the network of producers in Ukraine. Solanum-PEI is also developing plans for a potato school, based in Prince Edward Island, which can provide training for producers and other potato industry personnel. As well, Island expertise will be used to design potato storage, handling and packaging systems for the Solanum-PEI seed grower network in Ukraine. Last year, a group of Ukrainian growers attended sessions on the Island to learn about the Island's production practices.

"Through these and other initiatives we hope to expand our markets for seed potatoes throughout the world," said Mr. Hammill. "Our objective is nothing less than to make Prince Edward Island the world leader in seed potato production and a leading source of information and knowledge in the potato industry."



Solanum-PEI was established by the provincial government to develop markets for genetically-improved seed potatoes produced in Prince Edward Island and to capitalize on the province's experience and expertise in all aspects of potato production. The objective of Solanum-PEI is to bring together all sectors of the potato industry and to establish Prince Edward Island as source of not only genetically-improved seed potatoes but as well, information and technologies on complete production systems. Through genetic improvements and capitalizing on the importance of knowledge, the province will able to gain a significant competitive advantage.

The potato is now the fourth largest crop in the world, and is rapidly becoming a staple food in many developing countries. Designing and implementing sustainable production systems for these developing countries provides a major opportunity for the Prince Edward Island potato industry.

Solanum-PEI is cooperating with Monsanto, the world's leading company in the application of biotechnology to potato production. Under this cooperative effort, Solanum-PEI will combine Monsanto's technology with the province's expertise in seed production and disease control, along with its infrastructure in the potato industry.

Together, Solanum-PEI and Monsanto will develop early generation, genetically-improved seed for export. They will also work together to genetically alter local varieties of the target county. Seed would be exported to a network of seed producers for regeneration, or for producers serving the tablestock and processing markets. New opportunities will be created for researchers, extension personnel, equipment suppliers and other supports for developing countries.

Solanum-PEI is also developing a proposal for a potato school, based on the Island, to provide practical training for producers in developing countries on all aspects of potato production and marketing and industry organization.

The movement towards full exploitation of biotechnology and the information economy will reposition the value of the potato industry to Prince Edward Island. Developing a competitive advantage will be based on the province's production expertise and the marketing of genetically-improved varieties.

Media Contact: Wayne MacKinnon
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