Potato commissions from the American states of Washington and Oregon embarked on a trade mission to Myanmar, the Philippines and Vietnam last week to tap the growing potato market in Southeast Asia.
The Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) joined the Oregon Department of Agriculture and potato commissions from both states for the visit.
The Philippines is Washington’s fourth largest export market for agricultural products with those exports reaching $521 million in 2012. In that same year, Washington exported $80.2 million in food products to Vietnam and $5.6 million in food products to Myanmar, which opened its markets to Washington food products in 2011.
In Myanmar, the trade mission’s focus was on exploring the region for a better sense of how Washington growers can best serve consumers in the country, a WSDA statement said. The delegates also visited government officials to discuss market access issues, including tariffs.
The trade mission kicked in Manila on October 28 with a seminar for local chefs focusing on new ways of preparing potatoes to help drive interest among local consumers. The delegates held similar seminars in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam.
“More than 30 percent of everything grown on Washington farms is exported overseas, making the export market critical for our state’s $49 billion agriculture industry,” WSDA Director Bud Hover said.
“Potatoes are among Washington’s top commodities, and while the countries we will visit provide market access to our growers, expanding those markets can lead to more opportunities and more jobs in our state’s agriculture sector.”
Washington’s potato industry was valued at $700 million in 2012 and supports an estimated 23,000 jobs, while contributing $4.6 billion annually to the American economy.
“Washington is home to the highest yielding potato fields in the world and the quality potatoes our growers consistently produce are desired throughout many countries,” said Chris Voigt, executive director of the Washington State Potato Commission.
“More than 90 percent of the nearly 10 billion pounds of potatoes grown in Washington each year will leave the state and somewhere around half of those will be shipped to international markets. We continue to see international exports play a larger role for our industry and we look forward to building upon that success with our trade mission.”