Published online: Aug 19, 2011 Seed Potatoes
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Potatoes growers from Brazil came to the United States as part of a reverse trade mission sponsored by the USPB in early August. The growers are interested in obtaining seed potatoes from the United States, specifically chip stock seed from Wisconsin growers.

As part of an International Seed Symposium, the Brazilian growers initially met with USPB staff in Denver, Colo., before coming to Wisconsin to meet with Antigo seed growers. USPB Consultant Ed Missiaen said the Brazilian growers are very interested in Wisconsin seed potatoes.

"This tour is laying the groundwork for future sales," Missiaen said. "Growers in Brazil have purchased some Wisconsin seed potatoes in the past, and they have been impressed with how it has performed.  They are particularly interested in seed potatoes of chipping varieties. They really like the MegaChip variety."

Ken Rine of Rine Ridge Farms, Bryant, said he has shipped Pike and MegaChip seed potatoes to Brazil. He said the MegaChip variety works very well in the sub-tropical conditions of Brazil.

In addition to Rine Ridge Farms, the Brazilian growers visited several other Antigo area seed potato farms including Sunnydale Farms, J.W. Mattek & Sons, Seidl Farms and Schroeder Bros. Farms. The group also toured the Lelah Starks Elite Foundation Seed Potato Farm in Rhinelander as well as the Rhinelander Agricultural Research Station and the Langlade Ag Research Station in Antigo.

The Brazilian contingent included: Arari Pinto de Oliveira Filho (grower), Marcelo Balerini de Carvalho (grower), Marcio Skraba (grower/packer) and Marcos Bernardi (importer). According to Missiaen, recent economic changes in Brazil are bringing millions of new customers for processed products including French fries and chips. The chip market in particular is showing tremendous growth, increasing 10 percent per year for the past eight years. Pinto de Oliveira Filho and Balerini de Carvalho raise chip stock for Frito-Lay as well as other potato chip companies.

Brazilian consumption of frozen potatoes has increased from 80,000 tons in 2005 to 300,000 tons in 2010. Brazil imported 5,325 tons of seed potatoes in 2010, with 45 percent of the varieties being used for processing.

Ron Mach of Mach's Sunny Acres in Antigo is a Wisconsin representative on the USPB. He currently serves on the USPB Administrative Committee while also serving on the International Marketing Committee and the Seed Task Force. Mach met with the Brazilian growers in Denver as well as in Antigo.

"Brazil is a great potential market for Wisconsin seed potatoes," Mach said. "There are always some challenges when dealing with international markets, but there are also some great opportunities. The emand is definitely there."