(April 5) Fewer potatoes, higher returns.

That’s the formula spud growers on Canada’s Prince Edward Island will be banking on for the foreseeable future. On April 2, the PEI Potato Board voted to place a permanent cap of 106,000 acres on the island. Growers have voted for caps the past two years, but only on a year-to-year basis.

The board did not vote for a permanent buy-down program, however. Buy-downs were approved for each of the past two years on a year-to-year basis.

Sixty-five percent of the island’s growers supported the permanent cap, said Ivan Noonan, the board’s general manager. Fifty-three percent supported the permanent buy-down program, but growers agreed beforehand that a 60% approval rate would be required for it to pass, Noonan said.

Noonan said the permanent cap would help growers overcome sluggish market conditions that have persisted despite acreage caps the past two years on PEI and similar efforts elsewhere in Canada and the U.S.

“2005 was very successful — returns were substantially higher — but now with good growth and exceptional yields, prices just haven’t responded,” Noonan said. “Exports didn’t materialize out of Europe like we had hoped.”