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Following six years of unprecedented growth for Idaho potatoes in international markets, the Eagle, ID-based Idaho Potato Commission has hired Amanda Albers as its first international marketing manager and has established new offices in Mexico, Hong Kong and Malaysia.

The main objective of the commission's expanded international division will be to mine opportunities in foreign markets and provide assistance to Idaho potato shippers wishing to export fresh potatoes overseas.

U.S. fresh potato exports have reached an all-time high of $150 million dollars annually, and that number is expected to increase rapidly over the next several years. With Idaho being among the larger potato-producing states in the country, it is more critical than ever that the commission provide resources to Idaho shippers to help them capitalize on the growing worldwide demand for fresh potatoes. Today, through concerted efforts, Idaho commands 33 percent of the Mexican potato market and exports fresh potatoes to Canada, Hong Kong, Macau, Malaysia, Singapore, Puerto Rico, the Caribbean and Central America.

"Our attention and focus on international has allowed Idaho shippers and processors to expand their business beyond historical borders," Seth Pemsler, vice president of retail-international, said in a Nov. 30 press release. "With the addition of Amanda and her extensive international trade experience at the Idaho State Department of Agriculture and our partners overseas, the IPC will be able to further increase its presence in the international trade market, ultimately increasing sales and margin for the entire Idaho potato industry."

Working from the Eagle office, Ms. Albers will be responsible for continuing the growth of Idaho potato exports in core markets like Mexico and Central America and for developing opportunities for the famous potato in emerging countries like Russia, South Korea and China. Prior to joining the commission, Ms. Albers organized and coordinated international consumer promotions such as buying missions, trade show pavilions and governor's trade missions to help increase export opportunities for Idaho food and agriculture businesses.

The commission's representatives based in Mexico, Hong Kong and Malaysia will:

• Serve as the agent for Idaho potatoes in their respective markets by identifying opportunities and developing trading partners for Idaho shippers. • Develop and execute promotional programs in conjunction with the commission and provide ongoing marketing support to overseas retailers and foodservice operators. • Provide market research and assistance with import-export rules and regulations.