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U.S. Potato Growers Seek Access to Japan

A bipartisan letter from more than 30 members of Congress was sent to Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack asking for help getting U.S. fresh table stock potatoes into Japan. National Potato Council President Kam Quarles says talks with Japan, a potential $150 million per year export market, have been going nowhere.

Quarles; “USDA has been engaged in a negotiation with the Japanese for a number of years now. Those negotiations, USDA put them at the top of their list about four years ago and, really, the Japanese have just stalemated any discussion since that time.”

The letter, Quarles says shows concerns from both sides of the aisle; “Secretary Vilsack was raising this issue with the Japanese when he was in Tokyo a couple of weeks ago. Clearly, you’ve got this bipartisan letter that came both from the House and the Senate that is seeking to put pressure on the Japanese to get back to the table and start discussing this market access.”

Quarles says this appears to be a threat to Japanese growers; “They have a small but very politically connected domestic potato industry. Obviously, those folks are not excited about having high-quality, U.S. potatoes in their market.”

Quarles says Japan has been dragging its feet on the matter for almost 30 years.

He says; “The market overall is really not able to be served by the small industry that they have in Japan. That’s why, every few years, you’ll see these wild swings in prices for potatoes in Japan. It’s because the shortages generated because they simply don’t have the capacity to produce domestically.”

Japan’s phytosanitary concerns, Quarles says are questionable; “Simply let us know Japan, what are you concerned about. What are the necessary steps you see that will provide you with the security to allow these U.S. fresh potatoes to be imported safely. Obviously, we ship potatoes around the world right now. We’ve got the very highest quality, best production anywhere on the globe is in the United States where any legitimate scientific concerns the Japanese have can be addressed by the United States.”

The U.S. potato industry estimates access to Japan will result in an additional $150-million per year export market.

Story provided by NAFB News Service and Bob Larson, Ag Information Network, Edmonds, Washington

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