MOSES LAKE, Wash. — An announcement giving U.S. potatoes access to more of Mexico could come as soon as Monday, an industry official says.
The government of Mexico is expected to publish a rule on the importation of U.S. fresh potatoes next week, Chris Voigt, Washington Potato Commission executive director, said. The USDA will then respond with a rule on the importation of Mexican potatoes into the United States, Voigt said.
The United States can now ship potatoes only into the area within 16 miles of the U.S.-Mexico border, Voigt said. The original agreement, signed in 2003, indicated the United States would eventually gain access into the rest of Mexico,
“There’s a lot of consumers in Mexico,” he said. “This is an opportunity to really look at continued growth in export markets in Mexico with close proximity to the United States.”
Colorado and California are expected to lead U.S. potato exports to Mexico, Voigt said. Washington and Idaho would compete for third place.
Voigt said the annual volume from Washington could be 1 million hundredweight, comparable to the volume shipped to British Columbia.
“Washington’s going to benefit from it, but really the entire western potato production is going to benefit from it,” he said.
Voigt doesn’t foresee Mexican potatoes displacing U.S. potatoes in the United States, because pest pressures are higher in Mexico, increasing the cost of production. Voigt is also unconcerned about pest problems moving to the United States, expecting it to be addressed as part of USDA’s rulemaking process.
“There will be some restrictions on Mexican potatoes just like there will be restrictions on our potatoes. They will have to be inspected and declared free of certain pests before they’re allowed in,” he said. “Quite frankly, the pests in Mexico are also the pests in the United States, because we share a border.”
There may be opportunities for Mexico to produce seed potatoes for planting in the United States. The process is labor-intensive, Voigt said, and it could probably be done in Mexico cheaper than in the United States.