U.S. Government Fights For Big Boost in Potato Exports To Japan

American farmers, distributors, and perishables freight forwarders like Prime Fresh Handling are chomping at the bit at the prospect of a major boost in potato exports to Japan, and the United States Congress is on their side, hopefully creating the right climate for it.

On May 11, 35 members of Congress sent a letter to U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack urging him to press for a relaxation of import restrictions on fresh potatoes from the North American market

Dear Secretary Vilsack,” the letter begins, “We are requesting your assistance on opening the Japanese market for U.S. fresh table stock potatoes. This is a vital international trade issue and if successful, the U.S. potato industry estimates that this access will result in an additional $150 million per year in exports.”

That’s no small potatoes! As the USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) points out, “Japan heavily restricts the import of fresh potatoes, “ adding,” In fact, the United States is the only country with market access for fresh potatoes to Japan, though the use of imported U.S. potatoes is limited to manufacturing potato chips.” Other than that,  U.S. main potato exports to Japan presently consist solely of frozen processed potatoes, particularly frozen French fries.

“Table stock access to Japan was first requested almost 30 years ago,” says the Congressional letter. “It was elevated to a top priority in U.S.-Japan plant health negotiations in September 2019. However, despite the efforts of USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, Japan continues to delay substantive negotiations on table stock access, including with respect to our most recent request for Japan to provide a Pest Risk Assessment (PRA).”


It’s not as if Japan doesn’t need the taters

According to the USDA, during the last 20 years, the number of Japan’s potato operations fell by nearly 75 per cent. Nearly 80 per cent of all Japan’s potato production comes from one region. And given an overall shortage in farm laborer shortages across Japan, the FAS and Japan itself forecast Japan’s potato acreage and production will continue to decline. With cultural globalization of food tastes on the rise (e.g., Japan’s’ growing taste for baked potatoes and home fries), there’s certainly not going to be any shortage of demand.

And it’s also not as if both countries haven’t prepared for this

The Congressional letter goes on to state that “Japan already conducted a thorough review of U.S. fresh potatoes in 2006 when the market was opened for U.S. potatoes for processing, [and that] during this review, the U.S. potato industry addressed all Japanese technical concerns with comprehensive mitigations. There is no valid phytosanitary justification for the market to remain closed or for the government’s current refusal to negotiate.”

Finally, it’s not as if the U.S. isn’t capable of safely shipping the spuds

Spuds can be shipped in several different ways depending on the type and availability of shipping space, transshipment, and final destination as well as requirements stipulated by the authorities of the importing country and the buyer.

Potatoes must be protected from all sunlight, and even artificial light in the hold, since the light, on the one hand, causes the activation of growth-promoting enzymes (sprouting), resulting in nutrient loss and thus quality degradation (consistency, flavor), and on the other hand causes them to turn green, which may give the potatoes an unpleasant, bitter taste due to an increase in solanine. Solanine is a poison created by various plants in the genus Solanum, such as the potato plant. When the plant’s stem, tubers or leaves are exposed to sunlight, it stimulates the biosynthesis of solanine as a defense mechanism, so it is not eaten.

“They are living organs, so respiration processes are crucial because their supply of new nutrients has been cut off by separation from the parent plant,” states Cristina Moscoso of Prime Fresh Handling West. “Care of potato cargo should be aimed at controlling the respiration process. Inadequate ventilation may result in fermentation and rotting as a result of increased CO2 levels.”


About Prime Fresh Handling Global Services 

Whether it’s a box, a pallet, or a companywide logistics operation, PFH is skilled in achieving safe on-time delivery of temperature-sensitive material and products between any point of origin and destination around the globe.

In fact, PFH is also known as a global leader in perishables transportation of fresh produce, fish, cut flowers, and plants. With state-of-the-art facilities in Europe, South American, and across North America, PFH leverages industry-leading technologies such as vacuum cooling, sorting, re-packing, bar coding, labeling, and temperature monitoring to guarantee a consistent, safe, and fresh delivery.


Contact Prime Fresh Handling

Cristina Moscoso, PFH-West Coast: 323-328-8650 or via email at infopfh@prime-fresh.com. Also visit www.prime-fresh.com

Let us do the work
Let us do the work
ready to ship?

ready to ship?

Prime Fresh Handling clients depend on our international network of coordinated cargo and freight service specialists to operate shipping routes across the globe. Our experienced customer service representatives are available 24/7 to answer your calls and address any perishable shipping and logistics questions you may have promptly and courteously. We are here for you!

Get The Top 7 Tips For
Optimal Perishables Handling

Fill out the form below and stay in the know about the top perishable cargo trends brought to you by Prime Fresh Handling

  • Hidden
  • Hidden
  • Hidden
  • Hidden
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.