What’s causing the banana shortage in Florida and Northeast?

CNN Staff • Updated 2nd February 2019

( CNN ) — Unlike most of its neighbors in the Maritimes, the Prairies, the U.S. Midwest and Florida, many people in the East coast haven’t yet tasted the iconic kernels of potato originating in Prince Edward Island, Canada.

However, that may soon change — as some of those who work with the foodstuff in this Canadian province are hoping an answer to a thorny trade issue will soon be in the works.

Their problem with the United States stems from a banana supply control plan recently instituted by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) last year.

On November 5, 2017, CBP officers inspected boxes filled with potato-based products by Superstores Ltd. in Tortola, Saint Martin. The detained shipments included ingredients for several products made by Global Familiar Foods , a potato supply firm based in Prince Edward Island.

The bananas were then forced to sit at the dock and no one has been allowed to take them out of the country since. Many companies in this region are now losing business as a result.

Since the interception, lots of stock has piled up at the ready-to-eat facility. This is a potential loss that will further strain an already stretched economy.

“It’s hard to keep our stomachs full, so it affects us in a lot of different ways,” said Ian McCarthy, the founder of Global Familiar Foods.

County Update, a Christian-based crisis intervention organization on Saint John, New Brunswick, has also noted a great rise in economic concerns surrounding the situation.

“It’s the kind of thing you kind of set your aspirations for, and then it takes away all the years of hard work and a lot of overtime to get to that point. And then it takes it away just in the nick of time. That’s what happens. I mean, it doesn’t make any sense at all. So, we’ve expressed our concerns with them,” said Jon Massena, a member of County Update’s board of directors.

‘This is biting at their core’

CNN reached out to CBP for comment, but was not able to obtain any specifics regarding the cases or when the banana stockpile might be off-loaded.

“I certainly don’t think I’m overstating the impact that this has on business operations,” said McCarthy.

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Global Familiar Foods holds almost half of the most popular canned raw potato products in the U.S., including the largest 100% fresh potatoes, Spud Boy, Pop’n Freez, Italian Hot Potatoes, and Hot Boy baby potatoes. And all were hurt by the seizure.

“This is biting at their core and they’re all family businesses and they all want the same thing. I think they feel really disconnected and very betrayed by (CBP), and when you’re in business you just do the best you can,” said McCarthy.

Cynthia Qualls, who also serves as the vice president of Global Familiar Foods, echoes her employee’s sentiments.

“This is affecting a lot of retailers as well as retailers’ revenues and sales and everyone is suffering,” she said.

Even restaurants and restaurants are seeing its impact.

Stella Izak, who owns Seagull’s, a Caribbean-style restaurant in Saint John, N.B., said that she only buys from Canada for its potato products, and has no way of getting those in the country.

“I need to buy, like, $500 per order, and that’s crazy. I could easily spend about $2,000 in other places,” said Izak.

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