Record-Breaking Performance

U.S. potato exports are at record levels. But there is still lots of opportunity for growth.

Published online: Nov 03, 2017 Articles John Toaspern
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This article appears in the November 2017 issue of Potato Grower.

U.S. exports of potatoes and potato products reached the record value of $1,758,130,172 and record volume of 1,712,364 metric tons for the marketing year running July 2016 through June 2017. At the fresh weight equivalent (FWE), this represents the movement of 71,837,331 hundredweight of potatoes out of the U.S. market, about 20 percent of U.S. potato production for the marketing year.

These levels were achieved despite serious challenges in the international marketplace. First and foremost, the continuing expansion of potato production and processing in the European Union, all geared for export, has resulted in the EU’s gaining significant market share. Exporters in Europe gained footholds in the U.S. target markets in Asia as a result of the West Coast port slowdowns in 2014 and 2015.

Another challenge has been the strengthening of the U.S. dollar both against competitor currencies and in relationship to the currencies of our customers. Finally, competitors are moving forward with free trade agreements such as those between Australia and Japan in 2015 and Australia and China in 2015 and the EU’s ongoing free trade agreement talks with the Philippines, Vietnam and Japan.

For the recently completed marketing year, fresh potato exports were up 9 percent, potato chip exports were up 5percent, and frozen product exports were up 3 percent. Exports of dehydrated potatoes were down 10 percent. On a FWE basis, frozen exports account for 60 percent of the total exports, dehy for 24 percent, and fresh for 15 percent. Japan remains the largest export market, with Canada a very close second and Mexico not far behind. Korea is now the fourth-largest market, with China fifth.

With worldwide trade in potatoes and potato products averaging 8 percent annual growth, there remain significant opportunities for U.S. exports to continue to grow. While the competition from the EU, Canada, China and even smaller producers such as Turkey, Egypt and South Africa will continue to increase their exports, the prospects still look good for U.S. exports. The dollar has begun to weaken, with the euro in particular strengthening considerably. U.S. processors are expanding capacity, much of it geared toward exports, which will alleviate some of the supply constraints. However, further expansion is needed to fully take advantage of these international opportunities. The high quality of U.S. potatoes and products sets them apart. Potatoes USA’s international marketing programs distinguish U.S. products and create new demand.

Potatoes USA implements international marketing programs in 12 targeted markets in Asia and Latin America. These programs promote frozen, dehy, table-stock and chip-stock to all sectors: foodservice, retail, food manufacturing and consumers. Potatoes USA also supports the expansion of exports of U.S. seed potatoes to growers in different markets. Potatoes USA works closely with the National Potato Council to assist the U.S. government in overcoming market access barriers to U.S. exports. All of these programs are funded with a combination of checkoff dollars and USDA export development funds.

For more information on Potatoes USA marketing programs, including detailed export figures, visit www.potatoesusa.com/grower.