In what is called an "astonishing" increase in U.S. fresh exports of potatoes to Japan, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Foreign Agricultural Service reviews the market for U.S. potatoes in Japan in this recent report.

From the report:

In 2011, Japan became the third largest market destination for U.S. fresh potatoes, a significant jump after ranking ninth in 2010. This year, Japanese imports of fresh potatoes from the United States set a second record high, quadrupling to 7,872 metric tons from the previous year (1,899 metric tons). Japanese imports of U.S. fresh potatoes started in 2006 after the Japanese government allowed limited importation of U.S. fresh potatoes for potato chip manufacturing.

This season’s astonishing increase in U.S. fresh potato imports, valued at $5.3 million (CIF basis), is largely due to the U.S. successfully securing a one-month extension in Japan’s allowable shipping period (usually February to June). In fact, about 50 percent of this season’s potatoes were imported during the extended month (July) which boosted this season’s total potato sales (see policy section).

Japan imported 3,767 metric tons of U.S. fresh potatoes in the month of July alone, valued at approximately $2.2 million (CIF basis). In addition, the U.S. gained MAFF’s approval for an additional chipping plant in Kagoshima to import and process U.S. potatoes. Finally, this season the state of Washington became the second U.S. state, along California, cleared to ship U.S. chipping to Japan.


The report notes that further opportunities are ahead, though opposition from domestic growers is expected to increase as imports rise. From the policy section:


Currently, fresh potatoes are allowed to import from the United States, strictly for chip manufacturing. Under the protocol established in 2006, 14 U.S. states are eligible with limited access to the Japanese market.

These are the states of Idaho, Arizona, Wisconsin, Oregon, California, Colorado, Texas, New Mexico, North Dakota, Florida, Michigan, Minnesota, Main, and Washington. However, fresh potato shipments from the state of Idaho have been banned since the finding of potato cyst nematode in Idaho in April 2006. While 13 U.S. states are eligible to ship fresh chipping potatoes to Japan, only fields in the State of California had been designated to ship since the market opened in 2006. However, in 2010 after much negotiations and a successful MAFF inspection, fields in the State of Washington were designated to ship to Japan. In February 2011, the first shipment of Washington State potatoes arrived in Japan. The addition of Washington State as an active supplier contributed $2.7 million (CIF basis) in U.S. potato sales.

Despite the recent success in moving policy issues forward, Japanese import protocol procedures for potatoes remain costly and strict. Nonetheless, building on a successful shipping season, USDA (FAS and APHIS) continues to work with the U.S. potato industry and with Japanese chip manufacturers to further increase market access for U.S. potatoes. A continuing challenge will be greater and more vocal opposition by the domestic industry.