Nov 14, 2018First-quarter potato exports down, but Washington’s Voigt isn’t too worried
U.S. potato export numbers were down during the first quarter of the July 2018-June 2019 marketing year, a Potatoes USA report showed, and tariffs imposed by China and Mexico are a big reason why.
Frozen potato exports were down 6 percent during the July-through-September period; dehydrated potatoes were down 7 percent; and fresh spuds were down 12 percent from a year ago.
“These declines reflect the impact of retaliatory tariffs on U.S. potatoes put in place by Mexico and China,” according to the Potatoes USA report.
Mexico has levied a 20-percent tariff on U.S. potatoes and with other items, such as steel and aluminum, which resulted in a 21-percent decline in potato exports during the first quarter. Mexico has ranked among the top three importers of U.S.-grown potato products in recent years.
Japan imports more U.S. potatoes than any other nation. The frozen potato declined there was 3 percent during the quarter, although dehydrated was down 29 percent. Dehydrated was down 51 percent to China and 62 percent to the Philippines, but was up 39 percent to Mexico, 46 percent to Central America and 114 percent to South Korea.
Fresh exports saw “significant declines” to the Philippines, Taiwan and Thailand, Potatoes USA reported.
Washington accounts for more than half of exported U.S. potatoes. Washington State Potato Commission Executive Director Chris Voigt isn’t overly concerned.
“If you’re going to have tariffs put in place on your product, this is probably the year to do it, and the reason why I say that is the drought that the (European Union) has experienced,” Voigt told Spudman. The EU yield could be down nearly 20 percent, Potatoes USA reported.
“We compete quite frequently with the European Union in the Pacific Rim, and we’re expecting the EU is going to have to retract from that market pretty hard,” Voigt said. “Frozen potato products, as well as dehydrated potato products, are going to be in short supply in the Pacific Rim. Even with the tariffs in place, it’s likely we’re going to find a home for all of our products.
“Actually, it’ll probably be a stronger demand than we can supply.”