Mexico would provide full access to all U.S. table and chipping potatoes by no later than May 15 under a plan announced Tuesday by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.
Mexico has “concluded all necessary plant health protocols and agreed to a final visit by Mexican officials in April that finalizes” the expanded access, according to a statement issued by USDA.
Vilsack didn't make much progress on getting Mexico to approve biotech crop traits, although he told reporters he had a "robust discussion" about the issue in a meeting that included Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador.
"I would like to think I made an impression about the role that biotech can play in ensuring there is an adequate supply of food ... and that would lower, potentially, the cost," Vilsack said.
The National Potato Council issued a cautious response about the Mexican action on that commodity.
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“Given the history of this 25-year trade dispute, we are waiting to declare victory until we see durable exports of both fresh processing and table stock potatoes throughout all of Mexico as required by the November 2021 signed agreement," the group said.
“We hope the April site visit by Mexican officials will be the last hurdle we need to clear and that no last-minute roadblocks will be erected prior to Mexico finally — and permanently — reopening its border to U.S.-grown potatoes.”
Mexico agreed to grant full access to U.S. potatoes in return for being allowed to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement. However, Mexican farmers sued to block the imports, and a Mexican district court ruled in favor of the farmers in 2017, finding the Mexican government’s risk assessment on U.S. potatoes was flawed. The Mexican Supreme Court last year overturned the lower court's 2017 decision.
U.S. potatoes are currently restricted to an area within 26 kilometers, or about 16 miles, of the border. Even with that limit in place, Mexico is the largest export market for U.S. potatoes and products at $394 million in 2021, according to the potato council.
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