U.S. potato exports increase

U.S. potato exports were up modestly despite trade uncertainties.

U.S. exports of frozen, dehydrated and fresh potatoes increased modestly through the first three quarters of the July 2018-June 2019 marketing year, Potatoes USA reported.

The Denver-based marketing organization for the nation’s 2,500 commercial potato growers said the gains reflect growing international demand.

While that demand has been aided by a small 2018 crop in the European Union, “the ongoing trade wars and retaliatory tariffs have limited U.S. exports, as has the strong U.S. dollar,” Potatoes USA said in a news release. “Strong domestic demand in the U.S. has also constrained available supplies for export.”

Frozen-potato exports during the period increased by less than 1%. Potatoes USA said the 20% retaliatory tariff on U.S. fries entering Mexico resulted in a 26% decline in what had become the second largest export market for the U.S.

Export gains of 5% to Japan, 9% to South Korea and 6% to other Asian markets offset the losses in Mexico.

The organization said that although the 10% retaliatory tariff on U.S. fries entering China has yet to have an impact, an additional 5% tariff set to be implemented and the recovery of EU supplies could result in declines in U.S. exports to China.

Dehydrated-potato export volume in the first three quarters increased 2% primarily due to higher demand from nontraditional markets, Potatoes USA said.

“This is an area where the short EU crop is providing new opportunities for U.S. exports, though tight supplies in the U.S. have limited the growth,” the organization said. Export volume dropped 68% in China, 7% in Japan, 4% in Malaysia and 44% in the Philippines. But those losses were offset by gains of 6% to Europe, 14% to other North American countries and 149% to South America.

Fresh-potato exports are up 1% for the period. Increases of 7% to Mexico, 3% to Canada, 33% to Korea and 17% to Central America were mostly offset by declines of 29% to Japan, 15% to the Philippines and 26% to Taiwan. The category includes table stock as well as potatoes destined for processing into chips or fries.

“It is expected that exports to Canada will continue to grow after a 102% increase in March, as stocks of potatoes for chipping and frozen products are well below normal for this time of year,” Potatoes USA said.

The number of metric tons exported from July through March totaled 758,107 in frozen products, 93,456 in dehydrated and 357,470 in fresh, Potatoes USA reported, citing Global Trade Atlas figures.

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