Ross Johnson, global marketing manager – retail for Potatoes USA, said China has been a tough competitor in Malaysia, where it markets its product as “Australian.” ( Greg Johnson )

DENVER – Despite the uncertainty with international trade, potato exports have seen significant gains.

John Toaspern, chief marketing officer, said March 13 at the USA Potatoes annual meeting in Denver that fresh potato exports are up 14% from July-December 2017 over the same period in 2016.

In that, exports are up 29% in Vietnam, 2% in Mexico and 182% in South Korea. The board has seen decreased shipments in that time period to Malaysia (down 26%), Indonesia (48%), the Philippines (20%) and Thailand (18%).

Ross Johnson, global marketing manager – retail, said China has been a tough competitor in Malaysia, where it markets its product as “Australian.” Even with prices for USA potatoes about twice as high as the Chinese, USA product still sells well because of its higher quality.

As far as Indonesia, the board voted to suspend its marketing program there, as it didn’t show the effectiveness as in other markets.

“There’s a big resistance to Western ideas” in that market, he said.

Amy Burdett, director of marketing operations – international, said the Middle East is a promising market. She said she visited importers in Dubai last year, and fresh product often fetches such higher prices that importers are bringing potatoes in by air freight.

Toaspern said the U.S. potato industry hopes to get about $5 million in Market Access Funds for fiscal year 2019, and it will accentuate that with $1.08 million in investment from USA Potatoes, which was approved at the board meeting.

He said the funding is subject to the upcoming farm bill, but that shouldn’t affect funding for the upcoming fiscal year, as it will have already begun.