Politics are the root of the Mexico situation, O’Connor said, noting U.S. potatoes also can’t get into mainland China.
“We can’t get fresh potatoes in. We’re working on that one, but we can’t do that,” he said. “When governments are reluctant to negotiate market access, it takes a long time.”
India also presents obstacles because of European competition and a business model geared toward small-scale shipments to “mom-and-pop” receivers, O’Connor said.
Nobody is giving up on China’s consumer market, though, said Bill Brewer, executive director of Oregon Potato Commission, Portland.
“The industry was involved this summer with some trade discussions that APHIS was having in China to focus on trying to export fresh potatoes into China, which did not happen. We didn’t make any headway this year, but it’s still on our list of places we’d like to go,” he said.
Some shippers of potatoes and onions, such as the Idaho Falls, Idaho-based Wada Farms Marketing Group, prefer to focus on domestic business.
“There’s some (export potential), but the inspection requirements are so tough. That’s kind of a hot potato,” said Kevin Stanger, Wada Farms’ vice president of sales and marketing. “They do it one minute, and the next minute they change things.”
Ted Kreis, marketing director of the Northern Plains Potato Growers, East Grand Forks, Minn., said export business is limited.
“There’s very little,” he said. “We are so landlocked. Red potatoes don’t ship over long distances. It’s never been a big deal for us. We’d like to see more potatoes go into Canada. There are some going both ways.”