Thursday 1 April 2010

Manitoba potatoes - again! [updated 2]

Update: The comments section in this Winnipeg Free Press article is scathing.

Update 2: Links in the post below are now broken; see update here.

It looks like what was supposed to have been an easing of regulations to let small Manitoba potato growers sell product to small vendors (recall, the whole industry is a cartel run by three big potato farms with legislative mandate to squash anyone else) has turned instead to further cartelization of the industry.

And so my sister's having to start fighting again to be able to sell potatoes from her shoppe this summer. Check the Manitoba Potato Coalition blog.

The new legislation means that if a Manitoba grower produces as little as one acre of potatoes, they must apply to Peak of the Market for a permit. The new law states that they are permitted to sell only ‘freshly dug’ potatoes, and that these potatoes can only by sold ‘in bulk’ (in other words, not in pre-packaged bags) with specific conditions on who they can sell to. It states that any potatoes the grower has left after November 1 each year cannot be sold.

The Marketing Council and the Manitoba government have allowed Peak of the Market to concentrate the potato industry to a point where today there are only 13 registered growers with Peak of the Market – with three of their largest growers supplying more than 50% of the potatoes for Peak of the Market’s domestic quota market. When Manitobans purchase locally grown red table potatoes from a major retailer, they are purchasing potatoes through only these 13 growers because of Peak of the Market’s monopoly control.

Without a permit, a small potato producer in Manitoba is no longer allowed to sell their produce anywhere, including independent vegetable stands. Even with a permit, these producers will not be able to sell their potatoes to year-round vegetable stands, restaurant owners, or vegetable wholesalers. Under the new legislation, the only potatoes that can be supplied to these places have to come from Peak of the Market and their 13 growers.

Our hope is that Manitobans will join us in asking our provincial government to amend the legislation to be more fair for all Manitoba producers, allowing small potato producers to grow and sell up to five acres of potatoes each year without restrictions.

This post
breaks things down nicely:
Here’s what it will mean to YOU this summer.
  • With the new regulations introduced on March 31, 2010, you now have less choice when it comes to picking locally grown potatoes
  • When you buy Manitoba grown red potatoes from a major retailer, you are only supporting Peak of the Market’s 13 member potato growers because of their monopoly control within Manitoba
Small Potato Growers:
  • If you grow even as little as one acre of potatoes, you must apply to Peak of the Market for a permit
  • You are permitted to sell only ‘freshly dug’ potatoes
  • Your potatoes can only be sold in bulk (no pre-packaged bags)
  • Any potatoes unsold by November 1 every year ‘must be given to a food bank’
Farmers’ Markets and Seasonal Vegetable Stands:
  • Farmers wishing to sell potatoes must obtain a permit
  • Potatoes can no longer be sold at any market after November 1 of each year
  • Potatoes can now only be sold in ‘bulk’ (ie. no pre-packaged bags)
Year-Round Vegetable Stands:
  • Under these new regulations, small potato producers are no longer allowed to sell to you
Restaurant Owners:
  • If you wish to feature locally grown potatoes on your menu, they must now be purchased exclusively through Peak of the Market
Vegetable Wholesalers:
  • If you want to sell Manitoba grown potatoes, they must now come exclusively from Peak of the Market
Good luck in the good fight, Erin! Why the Manitoba government thinks it has any business stopping her from buying potatoes from her preferred farmers... Canadian agriculture has a lot of problems.


  1. I love reading things like this Eric! Compared to New Zealand's hands off approach to agriculture, all this sounds like something from another planet.

    The whole trade protectionism thing and how it dovetails nice with pork-belly politics is fansinating:

    Bernard Hickey's rendition of politics of Vietnamese Catfish had me in hysterics. Except its serious...

  2. Another planet, or NZ thirty years ago? Canada has yet to have its '84. The catfish story is good. I think I'd seen some more recent updates where they had to change species definitions again.

    We don't know how lucky we are in this country, we don't know how lucky ... we aarrrrreeee.....

  3. Well, yes it seems that in the US, Canada, UK, and Europe, the state exists mostly to give rent seekers ability to collect rents and block competition. Its always done in the name of a lofty goal, but the end result is always the same.

  4. I find it disturbing that governments can be pressured by those who want to control the markets on various things.

    It's almsost scary that a person can't sell an apple off his tree now days without being taxed,or having someone say that's illegal.

    I think where I live,the community would be up in arms if they could not sell things that are grown right in there garden at a farmer's market.

    Farmers market's consist of the small growers,some with gardens only 10 feet,by ten feet.

    It feels like my rights would be taken away if the law said I can't sell my potatos.

    I'm right there with you guys,and I'd protest right beside you.

    I hope you beat this law.It just feels so wrong that big companies can pressure a government enough to cause something that feels so wrong,and on so many levels.

    It happened to the small time grocer,and now it's happening with potatos of all cases.

    Please keep us updated Eric.I want to let my teachers know in school about this.

    Elizabeth in the U.S.

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