Potato exports show some improvement in December

For the Basin Business Journal | March 15, 2021 1:00 AM

Overall U.S. potato exports rose in the last month of 2020 but still lagged behind 2019’s record figures, according to data from Colorado-based Potatoes USA.

While year-over-year frozen potato exports in 2020 were down 17% for the marketing year starting in July 2020, the gap narrowed in December, which was down only 6% from the previous year, according to Potatoes USA.

In December 2020, frozen potato exports to the targeted market of China rose 54% in December 2020 to 4,059 metric tons, while frozen potato exports to Vietnam rose nearly 74% to 1,491 metric tons and exports to South Korea rose 22% to 8,673 metric tons.

However, overall exports to China for the first half of marketing year 2020 are down 34% from the previous year, with only South Korea posting a marginal gain of 4% in marketing year sales for the July-December portion of the marketing year.

Dehydrated potato product exports are down by only 4% for the July-December period, but December saw a larger decline of 7%, according to Potatoes USA. Supply issues in the U.S. played a major role here and Potatoes USA anticipates the fire that gutted the Washington Potato Company plant in Warden will further exacerbate this problem.

China and the Philippines showed significant declines in dehydrated potato sales of 61% and 28%, respectively, while Japan, the third-largest market, is up by 6% for the year-to-date, but was down by 19% in December. Korea has had significant increases and is up by 90%. Mexico is the second-largest dehydrated market and is up by 1%, while Canada, the largest market, is down by 4%, according to Potatoes USA.

Fresh potato exports, made up of potatoes bound for dinner tables and chip makers, were down by 3% for July-December 2020, but exports to the Potatoes USA target markets were up by 6%.

Japan, one target market for chipping potatoes, now allows U.S. exports on a year-round basis instead of a February-July window. This resulted in a 415% growth as autumn exports have moved for the first time, Potatoes USA said.

Exports to Korea have benefited from negotiated improvements in the import protocol for table-stock and are up by 58%. Taiwan has benefited from increased demand, with exports up by 22%. One of the chip processors in Vietnam has begun regular imports of U.S. chip-stock, adding to the 215% increase in that market.

The Philippines has suffered significantly from pandemic restrictions, and exports are down by 43%. Mexico, the second-largest market for fresh, has remained steady with a 3% growth. Lastly, the largest market by far for U.S. fresh potatoes, Canada, is down by 12% but saw only a 1% decline in December.