México: Mexico ending limit on US potatoes means growing market for Colorado farmers
The bulk of Colorado potato farming is in the San Luis Valley and will now only be limited by drought.
Mexico is loosening restrictions on U.S. potato imports, reversing limits that kept sales to border cities for decades and allowing spuds from the north to be sold across all of Mexico.
Colorado farmers, particularly those in the San Luis Valley of southern Colorado where most of the state’s potatoes are grown, are poised to be the biggest winners. They see the chance to add tens of millions of dollars worth of annual exports in the coming years.
“We’re ready to roll,” said James Ehrlich, executive director of the Colorado Potato Administrative Committee trade group. “It’s an exciting opportunity — potentially 70 million new customers.”
Colorado is the fifth-largest U.S. potato-growing state.
Farmers in Colorado produce over half the fresh U.S. potatoes exported to Mexico, benefitting from proximity — other major potato-growing states being much farther north — and from growing a crop mainly of potato varieties for fresh vegetable sales, not for processing into manufactured foods.
The U.S. potato industry estimates Mexico exports could grow to $250 million annually in five years, quadrupling the current size.
The U.S. potato industry has long worked to open Mexico to imports, enlisting lawyers on both sides of the border, politicians, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and even U.S. President Barack Obama, who raised the issue directly with his counterpart.
“This is something we’ve fought for for over 25 years,” said Sen. Michael Bennet during a June 3 meeting with Colorado farming and ranching groups and U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai.
Despite free trade agreements, Mexico limited U.S. fresh potato sales to a narrow band extending about 16 miles south of the U.S.-Mexico border.
Mexico lifted the restriction in 2014, but Mexican potato farmers sued and a stay from a Mexican court kept U.S. potatoes limited to the border region. The lawsuit ended last year when Mexico’s Supreme Court found the ban on U.S. potatoes improper.
Negotiations over welcoming U.S. potato sales nationwide have been going on since. Trade talk success coincided with the U.S. allowing imports of avocados from Mexico’s Jalisco region starting this month.