File photo ( )

Offshore demand for U.S. potatoes continues to trend upward, marketers say.

“Our export markets are trending very positive this year with demand for Idaho growing,” said Ross Johnson, international marketing director with the Eagle-based Idaho Potato Commission. 
“We shipped our first loads to South Korea this year and the reception has been very encouraging for future shipments.”

Idaho tends to export russet potatoes to its “newer markets,” but as the market matures, “we introduce consumers to new varieties to show the diversity of products Idaho has to offer,” Johnson said.

Japan, Canada and Mexico continue to be the top export markets for U.S. potatoes, primarily from the Pacific Northwest, said Dana Rady, director of promotion, communication and consumer eductation for the Antigo-based Wisconsin Potato & Vegetable Growers Association.

Denver-based Potatoes USA also noted that U.S. potato exports were rising.

“We are seeing continuing increases in fresh potato exports, though it is a little difficult to get precise numbers because the export figures for fresh potatoes contain chip-stock, other processing potatoes, as well as table-stock,” said John Toaspern, chief marketing officer for Potatoes USA.

Mexico continues to be an excellent market for table-stock despite the limitations to the 26-kilometer border zone, Toaspern said.

Other established “good markets” are Taiwan, Malaysia, Hong Kong and Singapore, he said.
“The newer markets are Central America, the Philippines, South Korea, Vietnam and Myanmar,” Toaspern said. 

The recently signed Japan-EU Free Trade Agreement looks to enhance Japan’s ranking as the largest importer of fresh U.S. potatoes in the Pacific Rim, Toaspern said.

Blair Richardson, Potatoes USA president, cited a $350 million impact to the potato industry, based on “trade wars” that are ongoing. 

Russet potato exports have grown significantly to Mexico, Potatoes USA reported, adding that Canada is the largest importer of U.S. fresh potatoes, with just more than 5.5 million cwt. in imports in 2017. 

Canadian markets are very similar to U.S. markets with all varieties and pack options available, Potatoes USA said.

“The majority of U.S. potato exports to Canada are low-cost bulk potato items that supplement their domestic supply,” Toaspern said.

Caribbean region exports are relatively small in comparison to other markets, Toaspern said. 
“The majority of Caribbean exports are 5-pound and 50-pound russets,” he said. “Six out of the top 10 U.S. potato export markets are in Asia importing multiple types and sizes.”