SUN VALLEY, Idaho — The U.S. Potato Board remains positive about export growth and retail programs in the U.S. and abroad, even with the setbacks in the Mexico export deal.

U.S. Potato Board focuses on growthJohn Toaspern, chief marketing officer, and Sarah Reece, global retail marketing manager, spoke to a full room at the 86th annual convention of the Idaho Grower-Shipper Association.

Export numbers for the 2013-14 season made it a record year for U.S. potato exports, Toaspern said. Exports include seed, fresh, dehydrated and frozen potatoes.

Exports of fresh potatoes were down 3.8% by volume but up 5.3% by value, Toaspern said. Higher prices for fresh potatoes were a factor in the reduced volume, he said.

The largest markets for fresh potato exports are South Korea and Japan, which only import chipping potatoes, Toaspern said. The Philippines represents a recently opened market for table stock potatoes that holds a lot of growth potential, with 42% growth since last year, he said. Malaysia, Taiwan and Central American countries are also key markets for U.S. potatoes, though a good year for the Taiwanese potato crop had U.S. imports down for 2013-14, said Toaspern.

As for Mexico, the USDA is working with its Mexican counterpart to fight the ban on U.S. potatoes beyond the 26-kilometer border region, Toaspern said.

Reece spoke about the board’s efforts to educate retailers in countries on handling and marketing techniques.

The educational support is especially important as international consumers are largely unfamiliar with the range of U.S. potato varieties and usage ideas, she said.

Cooking demonstrations are a key method the board uses to help retailers educate consumers, Reece said.

In the U.S., the board is participating in The Kids Cook Mondays program to provide potato recipes. The program offers the opportunity to engage the board’s target consumer, women ages 25-54 with children living at home, Reece said. The board also provides retailers with training seminars and one-on-one retail support for category optimization, she said.

Toaspern reported that second-quarter potato sales grew 10% by value compared to 2013, though volume was down 2.6%. Price per pound was up 12.9%. The drop in volume came from larger pack sizes of russet potatoes, while smaller pack sizes and most non-russet potato varieties showed gains, he said.