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Japan blocks imports of Idaho potatoes

Japan blocks imports of Idaho potatoes: The Japanese government suspended imports of raw Idaho potatoes indefinitely, effective April 21, in response to the detection of worms, called potato cyst nematode, in local Idaho production, an official of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries' Consumer Safety and Plant Quarantine Division said April 24.

"We decided to ban imports indefinitely because of the worms," the official said, explaining that it was the first time that the worms were found in U.S.-grown potatoes and that the worms affect the growth of potatoes.

The worms do not affect humans, he said. Japan lifted the import ban on raw potatoes in February and the United States was the first major supplier, exporting 431 tons through April 21, the official said.

The U.S. potatoes, which were all from Idaho, were to be processed into potato chips in Japan, he said, adding that had it not been for the worms, imports of Idaho potatoes would have grown substantially, particularly since they were to be distributed in Japan while local Japanese production is out of season. Japan imported about 700,000 tons of processed potatoes, such as in cooked and frozen form, from the United States in 2005, the official said.

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