The Trump presidency, new technology, changing eating habits and export opportunities were the hot topics at this week´s US Potato Expo held in the country´s tech city San Francisco. “Most growers I spoke to were cautiously optimistic about the prospect of Donald Trump in the White House hoping that he would deliver more business friendly policies and roll back some regulations. But they did express concern that isolationist trade policies might damage export opportunities in growing world markets, while others were concerned that restrictions on migrant labor would damage their businesses,” says Cedric Porter of World Potato Markets.
Some labor issues may be solved by automated technology that will soon see the arrival of driverless tractors and harvesters. A panel of Silicon Valley investors specializing in agriculture said that every year crops that previously farmers thought could not be harvested or packed automatically are being done so, while genetic improvements have the potential to transform yield and quality if consumers accept it.
US consumers continue to buy potatoes with the crop the most popular individual meal component at home and in restaurants, but the Expo heard that consumers are increasingly buying online as well as buying less more but more often. The show also hears about the rise of the ´Grocerant´ where shoppers go both to shop for food and have a drink or something to eat.
Although American consumers still love their potatoes, there is now an acceptance in the potato industry that individual consumption by volume is not increasing in the country. That means that future opportunities will be just as much outside the country as in it and there was much interest in how the US can be competitive against European and other suppliers in capturing growing markets in Asia, South America and Africa.