Potato exports

A load of U.S. potatoes is unloaded in Guatemala. U.S. potato exports are regaining ground in some countries.

U.S. potato exports continue to recover but remain below year-earlier levels as COVID-19 impacts persist.

Potatoes USA said exports increased between the marketing year’s first and second quarters. The marketing year began July 1.

Demand started coming off its spring and summer lows in October, and by December was decreasing at a much lower rate, Chief Marketing Officer John Toaspern said.

July-December 2019 exports set record highs.

“Those markets like Korea, Taiwan and even Japan that have done a good job in controlling the pandemic and in minimizing economic impact have done quite well,” he said.

Exports remain lower in markets such as the Philippines, where pandemic control has been less successful and strong restrictions remain.

Idaho Potato Commission International Marketing Director Ross Johnson sees generally good volumes, depending on the destination.

“In Mexico, things are going extremely well on the fresh side and also are doing well on the dehydrated side,” he said. Idaho potato exports are trending about 3% ahead of year-earlier levels in fresh and about 1% ahead in dehydrated volume.

In Asia, “we are struggling in all ports,” Johnson said. Containers have been difficult to book and later to arrive as ports carry out COVID-19 restrictions that contribute to the backlog.

Toaspern said demand has been low in Europe, particularly for frozen potatoes, “so now that glut of product we see moving throughout the world at very low prices is an additional factor. That is going to be a continuing drag on exports even as many of these markets continue to increase demand.”

He said Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries impacted by reduced international travel and tourism, another factor in demand for potatoes at U.S. restaurant chains’ international sites.

Potatoes USA reported frozen-product exports dropped by 17% for July-December from a year earlier but lost less ground late in the period. Exports to the Philippines and China fell, though China improved in December.

A strong December also trimmed Central America’s declines. Other July-December results included moderate declines in Taiwan and Japan, a small gain in South Korea and an increase in Mexico, aided by a strong December and earlier removal of retaliatory tariffs.

U.S. exports of dehydrated potato products fell 4% in July-December, including a 7% drop in December, Potatoes USA said

U.S. supply issues played a major role. Exports to China and the Philippines dropped while exports to South Korea, Japan, Canada and Mexico increased. Canada is the largest market for dehydrated products, followed by Mexico.

Fresh-potato exports including table and chip stock fell 3% for July-December. Potatoes USA said Japan surged, helped by allowing U.S. exports year-round rather than just in the traditional February-July window.

Exports to South Korea increased, benefiting from negotiated improvements in the import protocol for table stock. Exports rose to Taiwan and to Vietnam, where a chip processor started regular imports of U.S. chip stock.

Exports fell to the Philippines, increased slightly to Mexico and fell to Canada, though Canada’s December decline was slight.

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