(UPDATED, 4:20 p.m.) Exports of U.S. potatoes to Mexico resumed within the 16-mile region inside the U.S.-Mexican border July 7, but there is uncertainty when full access will be restored.

UPDATED: U.S. potato shipments resume in MexicoAfter about a decade of limiting U.S. potato export sales to within 16 miles of the U.S. border, Mexican officials in mid-May opened all of Mexico to U.S. fresh potato exports. Citing pest concerns, a Mexican potato growers group filed a lawsuit to block the market expansion, however, and Mexico’s department of agriculture, SAGARPA, on June 9 temporarily suspended all U.S. fresh potatoes to Mexico.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s phytosanitary export database, the agency’s Animal Plant Health Inspection Service on July 7 will resume exports of potatoes into the 26-kilometer border (16-mile) area that represented the Mexican export market prior to the recent expansion. “They should start issuing phyto (permits) for loads to go to the (16-mile) area under the same rules they went to the (16-mile) area before,” said John Keeling, executive vice president and CEO of the National Potato Council, Washington, D.C.

“This is an interim measure that will be in place until all legal challenges in Mexico are addressed for the expansion,” according to the USDA database notice. Mexican officials believe the legal challenge could be completed in nine to ten months. Industry officials have said the value of annual fresh potato exports from the U.S. to Mexico could jump from $30 million to $100 million if market access expands to include all of Mexico.

Industry officials are still figuring out the legal process ahead for the potato market access issue in Mexico, Keeling said.

“We are working with various folks both inside Mexico and here that will be interested in participating in those court proceedings to get them involved and seeing exactly how that works,” he said.