Idaho’s congressional delegation has sent a letter to the US Department of Agriculture, urging them to push Japanese officials to buy fresh potatoes. Japan is a top export market for frozen US potatoes, but a ban prevents US potato growers from selling fresh potatoes, despite decades of negotiations.
Sam Eaton, the vice president of legal affairs at the Idaho Potato Commission, explains that the fresh potato trade ban is a ‘politically sensitive issue’. Eaton said according to the Japanese government it is protecting its local farmers and ensuring that fresh potatoes coming from the US are free of any pests or diseases.
In 2022, potato exports from the US reached a record $2.1 billion in sales. That number would include an additional $150 million if Japan were to open its market to fresh US potatoes, according to the National Potato Council.
According to the Idaho Potato Commission, about one in five potatoes grown in Idaho is exported, and top destinations for fresh Idaho potatoes include Canada, Mexico, Malaysia and Singapore. The US already exports fresh potatoes to the Indo-Pacific including South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia and Thailand.