After four years of work by U.S. potato groups, the government of the Philippines has decided to allow fresh table-stock potatoes into the island nation.

Officials with the U.S. Potato Board and the National Potato Council said July 12 in a news release that the policy change is welcome news for U.S, growers and shippers. They cited the fact that the Philippines became the fastest growing economy in Asia during the first quarter of 2013 with gross domestic product growth of 7.8%. The country has almost 100 million residents.

Opening the country to fresh table-stock potatoes means U.S. growers and shippers will have to make new contact with importers in the Philippines, Sarah Reece, USPB international marketing manager, said in the release. Previously only potatoes destined for processing into chips were allowed into the Philippines.

U.S. exports of fresh chipping potatoes to the Philippines grew steadily in the past five years, hitting more than 5,600 tons, valued at more than $2.8 million in 2012, said John Toaspern, USPB international marketing vice president, in the release. U.S. exports of frozen potato products to the Philippines were $38 million in 2012.

John Keeling, chief executive officer for the National Potato Council, said in the release that the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s funds for Technical Assistance for Specialty Crops was instrumental in the decision. That money helped the U.S. industry host a delegation of Filipino officials during their tour of potato operations here.