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Mexico ends US potato ban, clearing way for russets

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Idaho potatoes are among the crops soon to be welcome again in Mexico after a decades-long ban. Photo: Courtesy

The russets are coming. So are the fingerlings, reds, yellows and whites from Idaho, Maine and other U.S. potato growing regions.

The Mexican Supreme Court unexpectedly voted unanimously to overturn a 2017 lower court decision banning U.S. fresh potato sales in most of Mexico.

This ends a decades-long legal battle and opens trade doors for north-of-the-border potato growers.

“There is a huge demand for U.S. potatoes in Mexico and moving western potatoes offshore is a big deal for Maine growers,” said National Potato Council President Dominic LaJoie.

The decision was unexpected, although in February the court released a draft decision in the U.S. growers’ favor.

“We asked every week, and we were told, ‘no decision,’ ‘no decision’,” LaJoie said. “Then all of a sudden, a unanimous decision.”

In 2011, the Mexican government agreed to allow U.S. potatoes full access to their market, but Mexico’s potato growers sued, claiming regulators have no authority to determine what agricultural imports enter the country. This ruling settles the matter.

“Mexican consumers and the chip manufacturers in Mexico have waited way too long to access fresh U.S. potatoes,” stated Jaren Raybould, chairman of Potatoes USA and a potato grower in Saint Anthony, Idaho. “We are hopeful that with this ruling the authorities will quickly reimplement the market access agreement and allow for high-quality U.S. potatoes to be enjoyed throughout Mexico.”

Don’t go buying sour cream and chives just yet.

“I’d say it will be three to six months tops before we start moving potatoes in,” LaJoie said. “If not, we will keep the pressure up.”

With information from the Bangor Daily News and Fresh Plaza

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