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Fresh US potatoes headed to Japan after 56-year ban

After a 56-year ban, Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns today announced that Japan will once again import fresh potatoes from the US.

The decision will apply to potatoes shipped between February and June, which will be used to produce potato chips. Japan has improved imports from Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, North Dakota, Texas, Oregon, Washington and Wisconsin.

Final inspections of US facilities will be required before shipments can begin. They have been completed in Idaho, Texas and California, and the first shipment from Idaho is expected to arrive in Japan in March.

Japan banned potato imports in 1950 due to phytosanitary concerns relating to the potato wart bacteria and the cyst nematode. The decision to conditionally lift the import ban follows a notice from the United States that it has eliminated the potato wart bacteria and has contained the cyst nematode to a limited area.

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

Japan is the largest US export market for frozen potatoes, with purchases of over $164 million in 2004.

After a 56-year ban, Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns today announced that Japan will once again import fresh potatoes from the US.

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