USA farmers look towards Southeast Asia to sell potatoes

potatoThe USA’s Oregon and Washington agricutural officials will leave for a trade mission to Southeast Asia October-end to promote Northwest potatoes

The state’s agriculture directors — Bud Hover of Washington and Katy Coba of Oregon — will lead the mission. The trip, which begins 28 October in Manila, will combine networking, politicking and cooking.

The officials are expected to spend 10 days in the Philippines and Vietnam promoting the crops.

Fresh USA potatoes can’t compete on price with homegrown or Chinese spuds, so the bistate delegation will stress quality, the Washington department of agriculture’s international marketing programme manager Joe Bippert said.

“If we can get across the idea that the Northwest potato is a premium potato, we can demand a premium price,” he said.

The trade trip, which will involve the potato commissions from each state, will be partly funded by a US$65,000 US Department of Agriculture (USDA) specialty crop grant.

After visiting the Philippines and Vietnam with Oregon representatives, the Washington delegation will spend two days in Myanmar, a country that is just opening up to USA trade, industry sources said.

Washington is the No. 2 potato-producing state after Idaho. Oregon ranks fifth.

The Philippines, Vietnam and Myanmar are potential growth markets for USA potatoes, though in different ways. The Philippines began allowing the import of fresh potatoes in June 2013 and was one of Washington’s top customers for processed potatoes, buying US$42.9mn worth in 2013.

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