US potato exports struck by COVID crisis

As US potato exports and imports have been impacted by reductions in foodservice demand in the international and US markets, the value of US potato exports for the July 2019 to June 2020 marketing year (MY20) was down 2.6 percent. The fresh weight equivalent volume was down 2.2 percent from the previous year’s record levels.

US exports started the marketing year very strong and were above MY19 levels through February, but the reduction in demand, caused by the global pandemic, led to the losses in exports from March through June.

The volume of US exports of frozen potato products was down 4 percent for the marketing year. The declines were relatively evenly dispersed across markets, but of note were declines of 27 percent to China, 17 percent to Vietnam, 13 percent to Central America, and 6 percent to the Philippines.

On the positive side, exports to Mexico were up 12 percent due to the recovery from significant losses the previous year from the 20 percent retaliatory tariff. Exports to Taiwan (which managed to avoid any significant COVID-19 related restrictions) were up 7 percent, Thailand up 6 percent, and Japan up 0.2 percent.

The outlook for exports in the coming year is mixed. Many countries in Asia began reopening in the early summer. It is expected that while exports for the beginning of the marketing year will be below year-ago levels, the reductions should not be as great as they were at the end of the previous marketing year. The biggest uncertainty is with the pace of recovery of the economies in the target markets. The other factor will be the volume and cost of the product coming out of the EU, where it appears there will be surpluses.

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