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US potato industry experts see mixed foreign trade outlook, increase of french fry imports from the EU

International trade experts within the potato industry are encouraged by a new trade agreement with China but have concerns about a rise in frozen fry imports from Europe. William Schaeffer reports for for Farm & Ranch.

Matt Lantz, vice president for global access at Bryant Christie, summarized international trends and trade issues during the recent National Potato Council summer meeting, hosted online.

The export market for U.S. potatoes continues to grow, and while the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in a reduction of exports, there’s still promising news in the international markets for U.S. potato growers, he said.

Lantz outlined the successful trade agreement with China, which opens the Chinese market to chipping potatoes from the Pacific Northwest.

“The good news is on Feb. 25, 2020, after 20 years of negotiations, we reached an agreement with China,” he said. “That agreement was officially put into place on April 23, 2020. That was a hard-fought agreement all the way to the end. COVID-19 certainly had an impact. There were multiple overnight negotiations.”

Lantz said that there were many meetings during negotiations when he didn’t think that they would reach an agreement. He said the agreement represents and incredible step for the potato industry.

“This was my white whale,” Lantz said, comparing the negotiations to Ahab’s quest in Herman Melville’s novel “Moby Dick.”

There are phytosanitary measures regarding testing for zebra chip and silver scurf that exporters must meet but Lantz described it as a “very reasonable agreement and we’re very fortunate to have it.”

He hopes to add other states to the chipping agreement and then focus on an agreement with China for U.S. table stock potatoes. However, he struck a cautionary note of the likelihood for future successful trade agreements with China.

Lantz tempered the good news with some bad news: The U.S. is seeing a continued increase of french fries imports from the European Union.

“There has been a major surge of fries from the EU, and I say the term ‘surge’ very deliberately,” Lantz said. “I do not say dumping, dumping is a legal term. It’s very hard to prove and it deals with cost of production.”

“Currently there is an 8% tariff on European fries and the quickest, cleanest way to address this would be to have a tariff increase on fries,” Lantz said.

Source: Read the full report in Farm and Ranch here
Photo: Courtesy Potatoes USA

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