TRENTON, Ontario (AA) — Despite a $100,000 reward to find who is putting sewing needles into Prince Edward Island potatoes, more potatoes were found tampered with this week.
There have been no reports of injuries, but potatoes are a $1 billion a year business for the Canadian province of Prince Edward Island.
Worried potato farmers have had to destroy 800,000 pounds of spuds since the first needles were found in Linkletter Farms’ potatoes in mid-October.
The needles were found in 10 bags purchased in grocery stores throughout Canada’s Maritime provinces, local media reported.
This past weekend, sewing needles were found in the Cavendish Farms plant near Summerside and as a result, 100,000 pounds of processed french fries and table potatoes were destroyed.
The provincial government and the potato industry are concerned about the economic ramifications – 12 percent of the workforce on the island of 150,000 residents depend on the potato for its livelihood.
The reward, originally posted at $50,000 for information identifying the responsible party, was doubled in mid-November.
Potatoes grown in the rich red soil of Prince Edward Island are “in demand around the world,” Mid-Isle Farms reported on its website.
Mid-Isle estimated that while markets vary from year to year, about 50 percent of the island’s seed and table potatoes are shipped to more than 30 countries annually, including Italy, Portugal, Thailand, Ukraine and Venezuela.
About 50 percent of the table potatoes are sold in Canada, 20 percent in the U.S. and about 30 percent to other countries.
There were approximately 89,000 acres of potatoes grown on the island in 2013.
Potato board general manager Greg Donald said in a statement that the tampering must end.
“We are very concerned there have been additional needles found,” he said. “Potato tampering is a concern for the entire potato industry on PEI (Prince Edward Island). This has to stop.”
On the small 3,500-square-mile island (5,666-square-kilometer) officials believed that the party responsible for committing the “cowardly act,” as the official Prince Edward Island Potato growers’ website terms it, would have already been captured and the sizeable reward collected, particularly as the deadline approaches.
“This reward is in effect for tips received up until Jan. 31, 2015,” according to the website.
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