A Washington Potato Commission official is optimistic about growth opportunities in Asia, following a trade visit to the continent by Washington and Oregon officials.

Washington, Oregon potato officials visit Asia

Dan Newhouse, agriculture director of Washington, met with Jack Huang, secretary general of the Importers and Exporters Association of Taipei, during a trade mission to Asia.

Nineteen representatives from the Washington and Oregon potato commissions and departments of agriculture and others visited Taiwan, Manila, Hong Kong and Macau — all of which import fresh U.S. potatoes — for 11 days ending Nov. 24.

Matt Harris, the Moses Lake-based Washington commission’s trade director, said the worldwide recession seemed to be ebbing in Hong Kong and other markets — a good sign for Northwest potato exporters.

“For us, it’s a positive marker that export markets are rebounding,” he said.

The trip marked the first time Oregon and Washington potato officials traveled together on a trade mission, Harris said.

One of the objectives of the trip was to educate Asian customers about the development of new varieties of potatoes in the Northwest, Harris said.

The delegation included Leif Benson, executive chef at Timberline Lodge on Oregon’s Mount Hood, who gave several cooking demonstrations for retail and foodservice customers.

One area of strong growth in Asia could be Macau, whose many casinos are seen as a natural fit for higher-end product like Northwest potatoes, Harris said.

Taiwan, meanwhile, is seen as a growth market for organic Washington and Oregon potatoes, he said.