Trade Mission to China Opens Door for Potatoes

Published online: Nov 26, 2013 Dan Wheat
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MOSES LAKE, Wash. - China may start importing Northwest fresh and chipping potatoes next fall as a result of Gov. Jay Inslee's recent trade mission, a Washington State Potato Commission official says.

The commission has had a pest risk assessment on fresh and chipping potatoes pending with China for 13 years, said Matt Harris, who was on the trip and serves as the Commission's director of trade.

The conversation had been stagnant, but Bud Hover, director of the Washington Department of Agriculture, gained a discussion of the issue with the director general of China's Administration of Quality Supervision Inspection and Quarantine. That conversation resulted in a response to the risk assessment, Harris said.

"Now we can work with APHIS [USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service] and answer their questions and move forward," Harris said. "We could potentially see some exports for the 2014 crop. That's what's great about a governor's trade mission. It really does open doors. We were able to set at a table with a higher level of audience."

China already accepts about $100 million of Washington frozen french fries and processing potatoes annually, Harris said. But this would be an opening for fresh table potatoes and potatoes that would be chipped into potato chips in China, he said. He declined to forecast potential volumes, saying every new market takes time to develop.

Progress also was made toward starting a pest risk assessment to gain access to China for blueberries, Harris said.

Alan Schreiber, administrator of the Washington State Blueberry Commission, was on the trip, but could not be reached for comment.

In separate APHIS meetings before the governor's trip, progress was made in reopening China to U.S. Red and Golden Delicious apples, said Todd Fryhover, president of the Washington Apple Commission, who was on the trade mission.

"We had very successful meetings with importers in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou asking when Washington apple will be back in," Fryhover said.

Officials of the state departments of Agriculture and Commerce and people from various industries besides agriculture made up the 100-member delegation, said Hector Castro, Department of Agriculture communications director.

Mike Miller, a commissioner of the Washington Grain Commission, said commissioners talked with Chinese grain traders and millers, tried to increase exports and gained insights about what Canadian and Australian competitors are doing.

"Their grain is brought in through the government and dispersed through quotas. It's complex how they do it," he said.

The governor participated in Pear Bureau Northwest and Almond Roca promotional events in Shanghai. Northwest pears gained China access last February. Almond Roca is made by Brown & Haley Co., in Tacoma, Wash.

A large part of the trip involved building relationships with government and importers in China and Japan, Castro said.