OLYMPIA, Wash. — South Korea has lifted a ban against Pacific Northwest-grown potatoes used for things like potato chips, but a ban on other fresh potatoes still remains because of a fear over a bacterium known as zebra chip, state officials announced Wednesday during a phone conference from Gov. Chris Gregoire’s trade mission.
The potato disease is not harmful to humans, but it causes flecking in potatoes’ flesh, and when they are fried, the chip darkens. The defect can make the potatoes undesirable.
Gregoire, talking to reporters by phone from her trade mission in South Korea on Wednesday, said the ban on potatoes grown in Washington state, Oregon and Idaho was lifted this week.
South Korea put the ban in place in August.
Matt Harris, with the Washington Potato Commission, said that as part of the agreement, Washington state will apply a sprout inhibitor and will also cut into a set amount of tubers to look for signs of the pest.
He said that there was an estimated 20,000 metric tons that were contracted to be sent to South Korea.
“We’re thankful that the Korean government and U.S. government were able to sit down and talk about mitigation tools to make sure trade stays fluid," Harris said.
He said the market on fresh potatoes is still closed, but there are continuing efforts to find a solution.
Gregoire is leaving South Korea Wednesday after a 10-day trade mission that included stops in India. She will be back in Washington state today.