Jun 4, 2024
Mexican market drives US fresh potato export increase

U.S. potato export volume remained steady from July 2023 to March 2024, dipping 1% from the same nine-month period the previous year. Export values increased 5%, to $1.7 billion.

Those numbers, released June 4 by Potatoes USA, are compiled by Trade Data Monitor from the U.S. Department of Commerce, Foreign Trade Division.

The dollar value of all export categories increased during the period, while volume increased for fresh, dehydrated and seed potatoes.

Fresh potato export volume increased 11% compared to the year before, while value increased 9% to $253 million.

Mexico moves the needle

The growth was driven by a 64% increase in export volume to Mexico, which accounted for 44% of all U.S. fresh potato export volume during the nine-month period — highest among all countries.

Doug McKalip (left), U.S. chief agricultural negotiator, and NPC CEO Kam Quarles talk about full market access to Japan during the 2024 Potato Expo in Austin, Texas.

The Mexican market fully opened to U.S. fresh potatoes in May 2023 and accounted for $111 million in exports in 2022-23. The USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) estimated full access will provide a market potential of $250 million per year within five years.

Canada ranked second in export volume at 23% and Central America third at 8%.

Exports of U.S. dehydrated potatoes increased 4% in both volume and dollar value during the period. The largest markets for U.S. dehydrated potatoes were Canada (42%), Mexico (19%) and Japan (14%).

Dehydrated potato exports to Canada increased 18%, while exports to Mexico increased 10% and exports to Japan decreased 19%.

U.S. frozen export volume declined 8% from the previous year, though the dollar value increased 4% to $1.1 billion. The largest export markets for U.S. frozen potatoes were Japan (27%), Mexico (23%) and South Korea (8%).

Access to Japanese market

The decline in export volume for frozen potatoes was attributed to an 11% decrease in exports to Japan and a 13% decrease in exports to South Korea.

Potato industry advocates continue to push for full market access to Japan, where the U.S. has been able to export chipping potatoes to Japan since 2006. Fresh access was first requested almost 30 years ago and elevated to a top priority during U.S.-Japan plant health negotiations in 2019.

National Potato Council CEO Kam Quarles estimated that full market access to Japan would be worth $150 million to $200 million annually, a 10% to 15% increase in global U.S. fresh potato exports.

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