Feb 21, 2022
Yet another snag for US potato industry in Mexico trade situation

New developments are once again delaying full fresh access to Mexico for U.S. potato growers and shippers in the latest turn in the long saga.

U.S. National Potato Council CEO Kam Quarles was informed during a USDA webinar that Mexican officials want to do additional visits to U.S. fields during the growing season for inspections. In December, Mexican officials visited Colorado to inspect potatoes. Quarles and potato industry trade consultant Matt Lantz of Bryant Christie said Jan. 6 during Potato Expo that the officials said their inspection was satisfactory and they were ready to proceed with the registration and shipping process. 

Quarles reiterated Feb. 17 that was the agreement and additional visits were not part of the work plan. 

“Recall that after the Colorado site visit in December 2021, the Mexican officials declared that this was the last step in the process and that January or February would be the timing for full market access,” Quarles said through a statement.

RELATED: U.S. inching closer to fresh potato shipments to Mexico

Since the visits are to take place during the growing season, that means shipments of fresh potatoes throughout Mexico will be delayed until fall, at the earliest. 

Quarles said there is a provision in the agreement that on-site audits are permissible once the program begins. That provision is the root of the delay. 

Kam Quarles, CEO of the National Potato Council, discusses the pending opening of entire country of Mexico to importation of U.S. potatoes at the Idaho Potato Conference. Photo: Bill Schaefer

“The work plan does have a provision for ‘auditing’ the process with site visits,” Quarles said. “However, the Mexicans are reinterpreting that provision to be a precursor to shipments, rather than an audit to determine compliance with a program in operation.”

On the processing side, there also is a hangup. Mexican officials are now limiting the number of registrations available to just two for the coming year for “compliance” reasons. Quarles said that was not part of the agreed-upon work plan.

“I am unaware of any provision in the work plan that would allow for intentionally constraining market access via the registration process,” he said.

Estimates have full fresh access to Mexico at a value of $150 million annually for the U.S. potato industry.

— Zeke Jennings, editor

RELATED: Road to fresh access a long one for U.S. growers

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