Apr 7, 2021
Mexican potato producers ask president to deny US potatoes

The National Confederation of Potato Producers of Mexico (CONPAPA) has asked the administration of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador to withdraw appeals in court cases involving U.S. fresh potato access to Mexico.

The appellate cases, which have been in the Mexican court system since 2014, have been on the Supreme Court’s ruling list since February. The court has opted to delay ruling numerous times, however, including during its April 7 session.

A draft ruling issued by one of the judges in February indicated that the court would rule in favor of allowing fresh potatoes from the U.S. to be shipped and sold throughout Mexico. Currently, fresh potatoes from the U.S. are restricted to within 26 kilometers of the border.

According to an April 7 report by Mexican news outlet Reforma, CONPAPA officials have pleaded that the governmental appeal be withdrawn, which would leave the court no case on which to rule. The plea is based on the notion that U.S. fresh potatoes would bring foreign pests to Mexico and harm its agricultural production beyond just potatoes.

“We allow ourselves to ask the President (Obrador) to instruct the head of the Ministry of Agriculture to withdraw from said appeal for review,” CONPAPA is quoted by Reforma.

Further, National Agricultural Council Treasurer Francisco Chapa, a potato grower, said even the threat of additional pests would “demotivate” Mexican growers from producing other crops, such as tomatoes and chili peppers.

The fresh potatoes-to-Mexico cases have been a focus for the U.S.’s National Potato Council (NPC) since they’ve been in the court system. The situation has drawn recent comment from Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, who, as Agriculture Secretary from 2009-17, is well aware of its history. Vilsack has said that under the USCMA trade agreement, complete fresh potato access to Mexico should be allowed for U.S. potato producers and if the court rules against that access, using the USMCA to resolve the issue through tariffs is a possibility.

NPC CEO Kam Quarles told Spudman that course of action appears to be needed.

“Given that the cartel this morning requested that the government drop these cases, and immediately after the Court again delayed their decision, it is reasonable to assume that the legal process in Mexico is impaired by politics,” Quarles said. “Therefore, in order to enforce our rights, the USMCA is the best option. Once we successfully prove our case there, it will allow the U.S. to attach retaliatory tariffs to Mexican agricultural products such as avocados until they provide the access we are due.”

RELATED PODCAST: The Deteriorating U.S.-Mexico Ag Trade Relationship

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