Strong dollar, port slowdown reduce U.S. potato exports

U.S. potato exports dropped for the first time in a decade, according to to new estimates.
John O’Connell

Capital Press

Published on September 11, 2015 12:36PM

Don Jenkins/Capital Press FIle
Potatoes spill out of a box at a promotional display in Olympia. The U.S. Potato Board reports that potato exports slipped last year because of a strong U.S. dollar, a months-long work slowdown at West Coast container ports and a large crop in Europe.

Don Jenkins/Capital Press FIle Potatoes spill out of a box at a promotional display in Olympia. The U.S. Potato Board reports that potato exports slipped last year because of a strong U.S. dollar, a months-long work slowdown at West Coast container ports and a large crop in Europe.


The value of U.S. spud exports, estimated at nearly $1.625 billion, was down 7 percent from the previous year, according to the report.

Export volume — estimated at nearly 68 million hundredweight on a fresh weight equivalent — was down about 5 percent, but still amounted to the second highest export volume on record, according to USPB.

USPB Chief Marketing Officer John Toaspern sees a rosier export outlook for the current crop, given that the port labor dispute has been resolved, the Euro is strengthening and this year’s European potato crop should be down due to reduced acreage and some weather challenges.

“I do think we will resume growth this coming year,” Toaspern said.

Toaspern said the port slowdown created lingering problems that are still being resolved, including foreign buyers switching to other suppliers and a mid-summer glut caused by U.S. spud products finally arriving on top of replacement purchases. He said USPB committed an additional $300,000 reallocated some of its USDA Market Access Program dollars, emphasizing Japan and South Korea, to win back lost U.S. customers.

USPB reported the largest export reduction occurred in the frozen category, where exports, estimated at $890 million, were down by 11 percent. Frozen export volume, with a fresh weight equivalent of nearly 4.7 million, was down 12 percent.

Japan, the major foreign buyer of U.S. frozen potatoes, cut its U.S. volume by 23 percent and its global frozen purchases by 13 percent. Europe and New Zealand, however, increased their Japanese frozen exports, according to USPB. U.S. frozen export volumes also declined by 21 percent to China, 9 percent to Korea, 29 percent to Taiwan, 27 percent to Malaysia and 22 percent to Hong Kong.

U.S. frozen exports to Mexico were up 1 percent in volume and 6 percent in value, as Mexico buys mostly from the U.S. and Canada, and the market wasn’t affected by the port slowdown. Other countries in which U.S. frozen exports made volume gains included Australia, up 44 percent, Canada, up 23 percent, and Central America, up 16 percent.

Fresh potato exports, estimated at $183 million, declined by 12 percent in value, and the volume, at almost 9 million hundredweight, was down by 7 percent. Fresh shipments were down 18 percent to Canada, the largest market for fresh U.S. potatoes. Mexico, the second largest fresh market, increased its fresh U.S. purchases by 15 percent, despite restrictions that continue to allow access only in the area near the country’s border with the U.S.

Seed potato exports were down 32 percent in value and 24 percent in volume, according to USPB.

Dehydrated potatoes were a lone bright spot, increasing by 3 percent in value to a record $212 million. Dehydrated export volume, with a fresh weight equivalent of nearly 20.56 million hundredweight, increased by 10 percent. The gains were largely due to a 54 percent increase in volume to Japan, now the second largest market for dehydrated U.S. potato products behind Canada. Large dehydrated export gains were also made in China, up 46 percent by volume, and Korea, up 66 percent.



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