After 25 years of export bans, all of Mexico is now open for U.S. potatoes.
The first shipments of U.S. potatoes under a new trade agreement crossed from Idado into Mexico through Nogales, Arizona, on May 11. It signaled the start of Mexico’s process to restore full market access to U.S. potato growers after years of disputes.
“This is an important moment for the U.S. potato industry and our partners in the federal government who have fought for decades to restore access to this vital market,” Jared Balcom, a potato grower and president of the National Potato Council (NPC), said in a release.
Previously, U.S. growers were only allowed to sell potatoes within a 16-mile zone across the U.S.-Mexico border. For decades, the Mexican government had barred U.S. potato farmers and exporters from selling potatoes across all of the country due to restrictions, citing pest control concerns.
NPC did not specify which part of Mexico the shipment of potatoes was destined for under the new trade agreement. NPC did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The FreightWaves TRAC spot rate from Boise, Idaho, to Nogales has continued along a mostly downward trend since a high of $3.90 the week of Jan. 14. The TRAC spot rate is currently $1.92 for that lane.
The agreement between the U.S. potato industry and the Mexican government was reached in December and allows shipments to go to any municipality in Mexico with populations of more than 100,000 people. There are no restrictions regarding the time of year that shipments can occur.
As part of the agreement, fresh potatoes from the U.S. will first be permitted through the U.S.-Mexico ports of entry in El Paso, Texas; Otay Mesa and Calexico East, California; and Nogales.
In 2023, the ports of entry in Laredo and Pharr, Texas, will become operational for fresh potato exports to Mexico.
Despite the previous 16-mile border restriction zone, Mexico was the second-largest market for U.S. fresh potato exports in 2021, accounting for 124,449 metric tons valued at $60 million, according to NPC.
Exports of potatoes to Mexico could expand up to $250 million annually, with potato-growing states such as Washington, Colorado, Oregon, Minnesota, Michigan and Idaho standing to benefit the most, NPC said.
Exports of U.S. potatoes around the world were up 10% in volume from July 2021 through March 2022, compared to the same period in 2020 to 2021, according to data from the U.S. Potato Board.
“Some markets did see a drop in U.S. fresh potato shipments, including a 90% decrease in Vietnam and a 43% decrease in Thailand,” according to the U.S. Potato Board.