US-Mexico Potato Trade Issue: NPC concerned, but expects SAGARPA might appeal court ruling

Image result for potato tradeA judge from the state of Sinaloa in Mexico last week deemed the approach for U.S. fresh potato imports to ‘lack scientific basis’, threatens the ‘food sovereignty’ of Mexico, and can spread crop diseases, and should thus not be allowed. The National Potato Council (NPC) CEO in the US, John Keeling said the organization was waiting on specific details of the August 4 decision, including if and how fresh potato exports to the permitted 26-kilometer zone along the border would be affected. “We just got the ruling and it’s very detailed,” he told Fresh Fruit Portal. “Our lawyers are looking at it to determine exactly what the impact is on the various court cases going on, as well as the ability to continue to ship to the border areas of Mexico.” The U.S potato industry has been trying to gain full access to the Mexico potato market for quite some time, but has been thus far been met with legal barriers. Keeling also noted it was unusual for a judge to make a decision on phytosanitary issues, and he anticipates Mexico’s Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Rural Development, Fisheries and Food (SAGARPA) might oppose the ruling. “We would expect that this ruling would be appealed by SAGARPA, so we’ll see how it goes as it moves up through the court system and what the finding of the other judges are,” he said. 

A group of Mexican potato growers have reportedly sought a constitutional injunction on U.S. potato imports, claiming they threatened to spread agricultural diseases, according to ABC News. However, Keeling emphasized there were no phytosanitary issues with U.S. potato shipments. “Clearly, the science has been laid out that we can ship potatoes to Mexico safely,” he said. “All the scientific issues have been ironed out, it’s just a question of the political will to do that.”

He added the development had come at a turbulent time for U.S.-Mexico trade relations. “There’s a very busy environment with trade to Mexico and with NAFTA [the North American Free Trade Agreement] being renegotiated, and so it’s hard to say what the whole relationship is about. “Commitments have been made to bring potatoes to Mexico and we’ve got to get it done.”

In January this year, Avocado Producers and Exporting Packers Association of Mexico (APEAM) advisor Ramon Paz said he believed the delay on avocados imports from the state of Jalisco being allowed into the U.S. was related to U.S. attempts to gain access to the Mexican potato market.

For now, Keeling advised U.S. potato shippers to make sure their receivers had verified with the phytosanitary authorities that the shipment can take place.

He expected there to be more certainty on the matter as the week progressed.

Source: Fresh Fruit Portal