“As of yet, there are still some questions USDA needs to address,” Okray said March 27. “There’s still a little mystery surrounding the entire deal.”
That said, Okray applauded the council and board’s efforts to persuade Mexico to open its markets — an effort he said has been going on for 20 years.
“Any time we can get a trading partner to accept U.S. products, it’s a big win for their consumers and our growers,” he said.
It won’t just be Colorado, which traditionally has exported a larger percentage of potatoes to Mexico than other U.S. states, that will benefit from the deal, Szymanski said. The door is also open for Idaho russets, Red River Valley reds and other U.S. potatoes.
“Obviously Colorado, New Mexico and Texas are well-positioned geographically, but I think there’s an opportunity for all U.S. shippers,” he said. Washington and Idaho have already made inroads into Mexico, and with the opening of the entire country, Toaspern said shippers in Wisconsin and the Red River Valley can make better use of their access to the “I-35 corridor” connecting the Midwest to Mexico.
At least initially, it’s unlikely that Wisconsin growers will ship many more potatoes to Mexico, Okray said. Colorado, Texas and other states are more likely to ship spuds south of the border.
“At this point, most growers are approaching this with a bit of caution,” he said. “This year we’ll grow more for known markets.”
That doesn’t mean Mexico can’t be a good market for Wisconsin in the future, though, he said. As early as this summer, Okray said he might contact potential buyers in Mexico.
Concerning Mexican shipments to the U.S., Szymanski said it remains to be seen how big that market will be.
He did say that the smaller white potatoes native to Mexico will be a draw for Mexican natives living in the U.S. who can’t find similar spuds here.