WASHINGTON, D.C.-Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced earlier this month that U.S. seed producers from 10 new states are now eligible to ship their potatoes to Thailand. The newly eligible states are Colorado, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, New York, North Dakota, Wisconsin and Wyoming. In 2009, Thailand announced it would accept seed potatoes from California, Idaho, Oregon and Washington.
"This is a promising development for U.S. seed potato producers who will now be able to compete in Thailand, the largest potato-growing country in Southeast Asia," Vilsack said. "Southeast Asia is one of the fastest-growing markets for U.S. agricultural products, and exports there are expected to grow by more than 25 percent this year. This action by the government of Thailand will provide buyers with additional supplies of high-quality seed potatoes."
The United States exported more than $10 million in seed potatoes worldwide in 2010. Initial estimates from USDA are that sales of U.S. seed potatoes to Thailand may reach $500,000 during the first year, with potential for additional growth in the future. Thailand imported nearly $5 million of seed potatoes in 2010, largely from the United Kingdom and Canada. Seed potatoes are produced to be used for planting new crops of potatoes and, once planted, grow into tablestock potatoes.
U.S. farm exports, including potatoes and products, reached an all-time high of $115.8 billion in calendar year 2010. In addition, the most recent forecast for U.S. farm exports in fiscal year 2011 (Oct. 1-Sept. 30, 2011) anticipates a record $135.5 billion in sales for products from U.S. growers, ranchers and producers. Furthermore, the U.S. agricultural trade surplus is expected to reach a record $47.5 billion in fiscal year 2011.
The market opening for U.S. seed potatoes in Thailand follows months of negotiations between Thailand and the USDA, including a visit by Thai plant health officials to New York, Colorado, Wisconsin and Maine, and a review of U.S. seed certification procedures, seed cultivation practices and phytosanitary mitigation measures. The market opening also underscores USDA's aggressive trade strategy, which emphasizes continued negotiations, removal of barriers to trade and market expansion opportunities with trading partners.
Today's announcement also highlights how U.S. agriculture is playing an important role in support of President Obama's National Export Initiative, or NEI, which kicked-off in 2010 to coordinate federal efforts to double U.S. exports by the end of 2014.