U.S. Potato Industry Wants More Opportunities for Increased Exports

Several commodity group leaders gathered at the recent Agri-Pulse Ag and Food Policy Summit in Washington, D.C. The conversation centered around rebuilding export markets and improving overseas demand.

Kam Quarles, CEO of the National Potato Council, says the U.S. potato industry is heavily dependent on overseas trade. Quarles, “Some people might remember that I grew up in the citrus industry in California, and so, how we made our money in the citrus was largely selling fresh products both domestically and internationally. Potatoes are a vastly different type of industry. We have very diverse channels of trade. Processed is by far the biggest category that’s being exported around the world. Frozen potato products, you have fresh, you have dehydrated potato products, you’ve got chips, and you have fresh potatoes that are being shipped exclusively to make chips in a foreign market.”

A recent study showed how much the potato industry relies on exports and the impact those exports have on the U.S. economy. Quarles says, “We asked Michigan State to do a study of the export section of our business, which is about 20 percent of all of the farm gate value of potatoes has to be exported. Roughly 34,000 jobs in the United States are directly supported by those potato exports. You have about $4.78 billion – this is both direct and indirect economic activity – generated for the U.S. over those annual operations of our exports. It’s a huge deal for us.”

He says potato exports have risen dramatically in the last 25 years. Quarles says, “When you look at who the top markets were for us, this is back in 1999, it was Japan, Canada, and Mexico. Today, it’s Mexico, Japan, and Canada. The order has changed, but it’s still those top three countries. The magnitude of the increases is striking. For Japan, our exports have increased about 80 percent to Japan. Pretty impressive. Canada is up 151 percent. The amazing one is Mexico, up almost 700 percent.”

Story provided by NAFB News Service