US: Potatoes show strength in exports, food service

U.S. potato sales showed growth in the first quarter of the new marketing year, and the industry plans to promote the crop’s nutritional benefits to more consumers. The biggest challenge U.S. potato farmers face is the strong dollar, making their products more expensive compared to potatoes from competing sources such as Canada and Europe, said John Toaspern, chief marketing officer of Potatoes USA in Denver. He spoke at the Washington-Oregon Potato Conference in Kennewick, Wash. Fresh potato sales are up 7 percent this year, Toaspern said. Roughly 20 percent of U.S. potatoes are exported, primarily in frozen and dehydrated forms. In July through November of the current marketing year, compared to the same period in 2015, dehydrated potato exports are down 19 percent, from 62,000 metric tons in 2015 to 50,000 metric tons in 2016, but signs of recovery began in November 2016, Toaspern said.  Fresh potato exports were up 14 percent, from nearly 170,000 metric tons in 2015 to 194,000 metric tons last year.  Frozen potato exports are up 3 percent, from 415,000 metric tons in 2015 to roughly 428,000 metric tons in 2016. Seed potato exports are up 6 percent, from roughly 3,900 metric tons to 4,100 metric tons. More