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News Release

Release No. 0050.06
Contact:
Ed Loyd (202) 720-4623
Melissa O'Dell (301)734-5222

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JOHANNS ANNOUNCES JAPAN OPENS MARKET TO FRESH U.S. POTATOES

WASHINGTON, Feb. 21, 2006 - Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns today announced that Japan will end its decades-old ban on the import of U.S. fresh potatoes.

"Japan's decision is welcome news for U.S. potato growers," said Johanns at a meeting of the National Potato Council. "This announcement is an important step in the resumption of trade in fresh potatoes with Japan and underscores the importance of following science-based guidelines that facilitate the safe international trade of agricultural products."

Japan is the largest U.S. export market for frozen potatoes, with purchases of over $164 million in 2004. The decision will apply to potatoes shipped between February and June, and which will be used to produce potato chips. U.S. potatoes were banned because of Japan's phytosanitary concerns related to potato wart fungus and golden nematode. The United States was able to demonstrate to Japan that it has fully eradicated potato wart and implemented effective control measures for golden nematode. Based on these conditions, the United States and Japan were able to successfully negotiate a protocol requiring potatoes to be processed into potato chips at an approved plant upon arrival into Japan.

After sending experts to the United States last summer for inspections, Japan has authorized imports of potatoes from 14 states: Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, North Dakota, Texas, Oregon, Washington and Wisconsin. Final inspections of United States facilities will be required before shipments can begin. Thus far, inspections have been completed in Idaho, Texas and California and the first shipment from Idaho is expected to arrive in Japan in March.

Exports during the first year may be limited until additional Japanese processors are approved to import U.S. potatoes. USDA and the U.S. potato industry will work to expand the number of U.S. approved facilities and the number of states allowed to ship to Japan.