Mexico has restored access to fresh, U.S. potato shipments within 26 kilometers of its border with the U.S., officials with USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service confirmed Tuesday.
Terrence Wells, export specialist for North America with APHIS, said APHIS and Mexico’s Secretariat of Agriculture, Livestock, Rural Development, Fisheries and Food reached an agreement on Monday.
Wells said APHIS began issuing phytosanitary certificates to export within the 26-kilometer zone on Monday, and he expected the first shipments to cross the border Tuesday night or early Wednesday.
U.S. fresh spud shipments had been restricted to the 26-kilometer area under the terms of 2003 work plan, until USDA and SAGARPA reached an agreement in May expanding access to large cities countrywide. On June 9, just three weeks after the trade expansion, however, access was abruptly closed nationwide, including in the original 26-kilometer zone. A Mexican judge granted an injunction sought by the Mexican potato growers’ organization CONPAPA to restrict shipments.
Wells said Monday’s agreement reinstates the status quo while CONPAPA’s challenge makes its way through the legal process, which should take another nine to 10 months. He said SAGARPA has assured APHIS there shouldn’t be any “hiccups” within the 26-kilometer zone.
“I don’t understand why we don’t have a full market anyway,” Wells said.
Wells said APHIS allowed shipments that were already en route to Mexico when the border was closed to be sold to buyers within the 26-kilometer zone, or to be rerouted within that area if they were bound for buyers further south.
Rigoberto Landeros, general manager of Rusty’s Produce in Yuma, Ariz., said he’s pleased access was restored within the 26-kilometer area so quickly. He buys potatoes from growers in Washington, Oregon and California for exporting, and 90 percent of his business is with Mexico. Landeros said some of the spuds he purchased for sale in Mexico had to be sold in Los Angeles, instead.
“The loads we ordered yesterday showed up today. We’ll be seeing a lot of them showing up tomorrow, which we loaded in the Washington area,” Landeros said.
In response to the partial reopening of the Mexican market, National Potato Council issued a press release noting USDA is seeking to restore market access to the border region.