Japan lifts ban on imported potatoes

Wednesday, 08 March, 2006

Japan has ended its decades-old ban on the import of US fresh potatoes, US Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns announced recently.

"Japan's decision is welcome news for US potato growers," said Johanns at a meeting of the National Potato Council.

"This announcement is an important step in the resumption of trade in fresh potatoes with Japan and underscores the importance of following science-based guidelines that facilitate the safe international trade of agricultural products."

Japan is the largest US export market for frozen potatoes, with purchases of over $164 million in 2004. The decision will apply to potatoes shipped between February and June, which will be used to produce potato chips. Japan banned potato imports in 1950 due to phytosanitary concerns relating to the potato wart bacteria and the cyst nematode. The decision to conditionally lift the import ban follows a notice from the United States that it has eliminated the potato wart bacteria and has contained the cyst nematode to a limited area.

After sending experts to the United States last summer for inspections, Japan has authorized imports of potatoes from 14 states. Final inspections of United States facilities will be required before shipments can begin. Thus far, inspections have been completed in Idaho, Texas and California and the first shipment from Idaho is expected to arrive in Japan in March.

Exports during the first year may be limited until additional Japanese processors are approved to import US potatoes. USDA and the US potato industry will work to expand the number of US approved facilities and the number of states allowed to ship to Japan.

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