U.S. Potato Industry Sets Sights on Japan for Fresh Market Access

The U.S. potato industry celebrated one year of full access to the Mexican marketplace for fresh U.S. potatoes in May. While minor hiccups are always inevitable, we can all cheer a year of mostly successful crossings that restored access to the entire country of Mexico after more than 25 years of disputes and legal obstructions. With that market challenge (hopefully) behind us, the U.S. potato industry is setting its sights on a new market for fresh potatoes: Japan.


Although the U.S. has been able to export chipping potatoes to Japan since 2006 (and that market has grown considerably), we are seeking to enhance that market access to include all fresh potatoes, including table stock.

Once opened, Japan will become another massive market for U.S. fresh potato exports, estimated at $150 million to $200 million annually (representing a 10-15% increase in global U.S. fresh potato exports).

Politics Needed to Open Doors

Similar to the situation with Mexico, full access to Japan has been requested for almost 30 years. Yet, despite efforts from USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), Japan continues to delay substantive negotiations.

In 2006, Japan conducted a thorough risk analysis of U.S. fresh potatoes when the processing market opened. The U.S. addressed all Japanese technical concerns with comprehensive mitigations at that time. There is no valid reason for the Japanese government’s refusal to negotiate with USDA and for this valuable market to remain closed.

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This stalemate is due to domestic political sensitivities in Japan. Without pressure from both the U.S. Administration and Congress, progress on this issue is likely to remain stagnant for many years, or even decades, to come.

Japan Is a Hold Out in the East

Currently, many countries in the Indo-Pacific, including South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Indonesia, Philippines, Malaysia, and Thailand, are reaping benefits from U.S exports of fresh potatoes. These shipments occur regularly and safely throughout the year, providing benefits not only to our growers here in the U.S. but to consumers worldwide who can enjoy high-quality U.S. produce that otherwise wouldn’t have been available with market restrictions.

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During the 2023 National Potato Council Washington Summit earlier this year, our growers and industry partners raised this need for market access with their elected representatives on Capitol Hill. During those visits, we urged our allies in Congress to work with the Administration to break the impasse on negotiations and drive Japan to deliver a Pest Risk Assessment by this Fall.

Japanese consumers, U.S. growers, and the entire international supply chain will benefit from resolving this longstanding issue. Focused bipartisan support from Washington, DC, will be essential in finally opening Japan to safe, healthy, and high-quality, U.S.-grown potatoes.