Potato exporters find opening in South Korea - The Packer

Potato exporters find opening in South Korea

10/16/2012 07:48:00 AM
Tom Karst

Fresh tablestock potatoes are still not approved for export, but Northwest U.S. chipping potatoes are again headed to South Korea again after negotiators resolved a phytosanitary trade barrier in place since August.

Resolution of the trade issue related to treatment of chipping potatoes for the zebra chip pathogen was announced by Washington Governor Chris Gregoire Oct. 9 while she and other officials were visiting South Korea. The lifting of the ban will allow chipping potatoes from Washington, Oregon and Idaho to be shipped to South Korea.

However, South Korea has not approved fresh potato imports, pending further review of a plan to reduce risks associated with the zebra chip pathogen, according to Matt Harris, director of governmental affairs for the Washington State Potato Commission, Moses Lake.

South Korea on Aug. 17 banned all imports of fresh potatoes from Oregon, Washington and Idaho over fears of zebra chip disease. Reducing the risk associated with chipping potatoes was more straightforward than fresh potatoes because shipments go directly to the processor in sealed containers, Harris said.

Even while officials work on approving a systems approach for fresh potatoes, the expanded opportunities brought by the U.S.-South Korea free trade agreement should give chipping potato exporters from Washington and other states new sales, Harris said. Shipments could start in mid-October, he said, arriving at South Korea in mid-November.

Harris participated in the trade mission to South Korea, returning Oct. 11 He said the new trade agreement will bring immediate opportunities for exporters of chipping potatoes.

He said the U.S.-South Korea free trade agreement will open a tariff free window for chipping potato exports between Dec. 1 to April 30. Outside that tariff-free window, South Korea allows about 19,000 metric tons of chipping potato imports from all countries per year. Imports above that quota level are subject to a 304% tariff from May 1 to November 30, Harris said.

“Without our exports they basically have to shut down plants two months out of the year,” Harris said Oct. 12.

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