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Mexico a promising new market for U.S. sweet potatoes thanks to EMP program support




Mexico has become the U.S. sweet potato industry’s fastest growing export market thanks to market development efforts funded in part by the Emerging Markets Program (EMP). With the help of EMP funds, the American Sweet Potato Marketing Institute (ASPMI) conducted an assessment of the Mexican market for U.S. sweet potatoes concluding that opportunities abound for U.S. exports. As Mexican consumers are increasingly demanding nutritious foods, sweet potatoes are an ideal choice – but work is needed to train retailers on how to properly source and handle product and consumers on how to prepare U.S. sweet potatoes compared to traditional domestic varieties. Towards this, ASPMI conducted a series of training seminars in Mexico City and Monterrey on the grades, sizes, and superior quality of U.S. sweet potatoes as well as how to properly handle, store, and display product. The seminars were a tremendous success, reaching over 140 leading produce traders nationwide, many of whom expressed keen interest in beginning to source directly from the U.S. And since launching its development efforts in Mexico, exports have surged – shipments doubled to $3.2 million in 2017 and have more than doubled in 2018. EMP funding was critical in helping ASPMI identify this important new opportunity, without which the market would have remained untapped. ASPMI was formed in 2013 to promote the unique attributes of U.S. sweet potatoes abroad, leveraging USDA Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS)-administered programs. These cost-share programs, such as the Emerging Markets Program (EMP) and the Market Access Program (MAP), allow the association to reach markets that were untapped until recently. Most sweet potato operations are small to medium family-owned farms; MAP funds give them the assistance needed to access new export markets that they otherwise would not be able to reach.