Mexico's decades-long limitation on Colorado-grown potatoes came to an end earlier this month. Since 1996, Mexico has limited the export of US-grown potatoes to just within 16 miles of the US-Mexico border, fearing pest and disease problem. That all changed on May 11, when the first shipment of Idaho-grown potatoes that went into Mexico's interior crossed the border.
That change is the result of a late 2021 agreement and a more recent one, signed in April, between the two countries. The agreement, according to a May 12 news release from the US Department of Agriculture, means US potato exports to Mexico could more than quadruple over the next five years.
Currently, about 10% of Colorado potatoes, grown primarily in the San Luis Valley, are exported to Mexico. In 2021, that was about 122 million pounds. Mexico is the top export market for all US-grown potatoes and Colorado potatoes represent nearly half of all potato exports into Mexico.
Potato exports from Colorado and the rest of the United States have been hampered by several factors: concerns about disease and pests, negotiations over the US-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) trade deal and litigation by Mexican farmers.
The North American Free Trade Agreement and later, the USMCA, opened up Mexico to US potatoes, but potato important was never implemented because Mexico's version of the National Potato Council filed a lawsuit against the government in 2014, claiming the government had no authority to decide whether agricultural exports were legal. However, a year ago, the Mexican Supreme Court ruled that the government did, in fact, have that authority.
James Ehrlich, executive director of the Colorado Potato Administrative Committee, said that potato exports to a wider Mexican market represent a "huge opportunity, with 70 million new customers that we didn't have before."