Published online: Oct 29, 2012
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A partial repeal of a South Korean ban on potatoes from Idaho and other northwest states could increase Idaho's exports. But the state is essentially starting its relationship with the country from scratch after bans that have lasted for years.

South Korea lifted its ban the week of Oct. 8 against Pacific Northwest-grown potatoes used for things like potato chips. But its ban on other fresh potatoes remains because of a fear over a bacterium known as zebra chip, Washington state officials announced Oct. 11 during a phone conference from Gov. Chris Gregoire's trade mission.

The potato disease is not harmful to humans, but it causes flecking in potatoes' flesh, and when they are fried, the chip darkens. The defect can make the chips bitter.

Frank Muir, president and CEO of the
Idaho Potato Commission, said past bans on fresh potatoes going into South Korea have weakened Idaho's relationship with that country. He said Idaho started to make headway with the South Korean market before the ban related to zebra chip began in August.

"As a result of that, we have not really had a chance to develop the market again," Muir said. "Right now we don't have a significant amount of volume going into south Korea, although we hope to."

SOURCE: Sean Olson, Idaho Business Review. The Associated Press contributed to this story.