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Report: The US dominates Japan’s total potato product imports

According to a recently released USDA/FAS GAIN report, the United States exported nearly $348 million of potatoes and potato products to Japan in 2018, making Japan the number one overseas market for U.S. potatoes.

Japan is a major importer of cooked and prepared frozen potatoes. U.S. potato products accounted for nearly 70 percent of Japan’s total potato product imports annually.

The GAIN report further notes that Japan lifted a ten-year ban on imports of chipping potatoes from Idaho in 2017. Currently, 16 states are eligible to export chipping potatoes to Japan. However, chipping potato shipments continue to be subject to a six-month import window (February to July) with no carry over permitted beyond October 1. U.S. potato imports are subject to further restrictions on overland transportation and ports of entry.

There are no regional or seasonal restrictions on imports of processed potatoes, such as frozen French fries, though. U.S. table stock potatoes are not currently eligible for export to Japan.

Japan’s market for U.S. potato (non-fresh) products is strong with potatoes increasing in popularity as a side-dish in Japanese cuisine. Favored for their reliable quality, uniform size, and white color, U.S. frozen French fries lead all potato export product categories.

Opportunities for continued growth exist in both the food service and retail sectors in Japan, especially for frozen potato products, says the GAIN report. According to industry estimates, between 2013-2018, Japan’s market for French fries grew annually by 3.5 percent.

The Japanese retail market favors convenient, small and/or single-serve, microwavable, and/or ready-to-eat products such as fries, frozen mashed potatoes, and mixed vegetables with potatoes. The United States is the sole foreign supplier of fresh chipping potatoes in Japan.

Further details are available at www.usdajapan.org/usjta/

Source: USDA/FAS GAIN report