Southern Colorado potatoes might be shipped into Mexico soon

US growers started shipping fresh potatoes into the Mexican interior in May, about 20 years after an initial deal was signed between the two countries. For the San Luis Valley, the second-largest potato-growing region in the country, the Mexican market could bring in millions of new customers, but farmers there aren't sure the deal will last, according to Jim Ehrlich, the executive director of the Colorado Potato Administrative Committee in Monte Vista.

Barriers to the Mexican potato market appeared to come down after the Mexican Supreme Court ruled last year to allow fresh U.S. potatoes to be sold throughout much of the country. Previously, US farmers could only sell their crop in a 26-kilometer-wide zone, which is about 16 miles, just over the southern border.

The deal 20 years ago was staggered to initially allow sales just within that 26-kilometer zone. After a few years, potatoes should have been sold throughout the entire country. Ehrlich says a powerful group of Mexican potato farmers have helped block potato shipments from expanding beyond the first tier of the agreement.

First potato shipments
The first potato shipments made it beyond the 26-kilometer boundary about two months ago, and Ehrlich said he has heard reports of around 120 shipments going through without any issues.

Industry organizations supporting the US potato industry estimate that access to the entire Mexican market could grow the total export value of fresh potatoes by $190 million a year. The U.S. currently exports about $60 million of fresh potatoes to Mexico each year, according to the National Potato Council. 


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