US potato industry seeking inroads in Japan
This May, the U.S. potato industry will celebrate one year of full access to the Mexican marketplace for fresh U.S. potatoes. While minor hiccups are always inevitable, we can all cheer a year of mostly successful crossings that restored access to the entire country of Mexico after more than 25 years of disputes and legal obstructions.
With that market challenge (hopefully) behind us, the U.S. potato industry is setting its sights on a new market for fresh potatoes: Japan.
Although the U.S. has been able to export chipping potatoes to Japan since 2006 (and that market has grown considerably), we are seeking to enhance that market access to include all fresh potatoes, including table stock. Once opened, Japan will become another massive market for U.S. fresh potato exports, estimated at $150 million to $200 million annually (representing a 10% to 15% increase in global U.S. fresh potato exports).
Similar to the situation with Mexico, full access to Japan has been requested for almost 30 years. Yet, despite efforts from the United States Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, Japan continues to delay substantive negotiations.
In 2006, a thorough risk analysis of U.S. fresh potatoes was conducted by Japan when the processing market was opened, and all Japanese technical concerns were addressed with comprehensive mitigations from the U.S. at that time. There is no valid reason for the Japanese government’s refusal to negotiate with USDA and for this valuable market to remain closed.
This stalemate is due to domestic political sensitivities in Japan. Without pressure from the U.S. government, progress on this issue is likely to remain stagnant for many years or even decades to come.
Currently, many countries in the Indo- Pacific including South Korea, Taiwan,
Hong Kong, Singapore, Indonesia, The Philippines, Malaysia, and Thailand, are reaping benefits from U.S exports of fresh potatoes. These shipments occur regularly and safely throughout the year, providing benefits not only to domestic growers but to consumers worldwide who can enjoy high-quality U.S. produce that otherwise wouldn’t have been available with market restrictions.
During the 2023 NPC Washington Summit earlier this year, our growers and industry partners raised this need for market access with their elected representatives on Capitol Hill. During those visits, we urged our allies in Congress to work with the Biden Administration to break the impasse in negotiations and drive Japan to deliver a pest risk assessment by this fall.
Japanese consumers, U.S. growers and the entire international supply chain will benefit from resolving this long-standing issue. Focused bipartisan support from Washington, D.C. will be essential in finally opening Japan to safe, healthy and high- quality U.S.-grown potatoes.