January 25, 2022

EVERYTHING IS GOING SWIMMINGLY: The Coming “Spudpocalypse.”

A new advertising campaign warns of an impending “spudpocalypse,” chipping into potato supplies and driving price spikes in Massachusetts as Prince Edward Island tubers are hit with a moratorium on exports.

“Shelves will soon be bare … help us stop the spudpocalypse,” blares a video clip for the ad campaign’s new website — spudpocalypse.com. The spot that also features a hand labeled “USDA” swatting away cartoon potatoes as a crunchy rock guitar grooves.

The campaign, from the PEI Potato Board — an industry group for the Canadian province’s spud growers — is meant to gin up public pressure here in potato-hungry Massachusetts after Canadian and U.S. food safety authorities cut the export of potatoes from Prince Edward Island over fears of “potato wart.”

The Prince Edward Island version of Big Potato is targeting Massachusetts because the spud-loving Bay State accounts for an outsized number of Prince Edward Island potatoes in the U.S. One of the few big potato-packers in the area says they have a point.

Greg Maheris, who runs potato distributor J Maheris Co. in Chelsea, said he’s seen a drop of about 30% in the total number of spuds coming in. He normally sees upward of about 70,000 pounds of Prince Edward Island potatoes — so the lack of them is leading to fewer spuds at higher prices, especially in concert with a bad growing year out west in the midst of heat, fires and transportation issues.

“It’s going to be awful — 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 old King Arthur’s Lounge.

He said there’s only a handful of people left in the region who do what he does, which is import potatoes, sort them, bag them up and send them to grocery stores.

“Potatoes always have been a cheap, good ingredient for people to put on the table, and now that could change,” he said.

Well, that’s okay, it’s not like food is getting more expensive in general.

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