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Alaska's international potato seed program not viable, audit finds

Alaska Dispatch

A state audit has found that Alaska’s endeavor to develop a viable business in the export of potato seeds will likely never come to fruition, the Juneau Empire reports.

Alaska’s potatoes are virus-free, which makes them valuable to Asian buyers looking for virus-free-certified seeds. “Alaska is the only state from which Taiwan and China will accept seed potatoes, and there’s a tremendous opportunity there,” Bryce Wrigley, president of the Alaska Farm Bureau, told the Juneau Empire.

The state’s potato industry was unable to capitalize on this opportunity, however. While the state developed a testing program to produce the potatoes and ship them abroad, Alaska’s potato industry was unable to develop the market or produce enough potatoes to sustain itself.

Since 1994, the state has subsidized the program with $5.5 million in state and federal money. Revenues from the program are estimated at $250,000 to $750,000, according to the audit. The audit also stated that the program is unlikely ever make returns that cover the costs.

However, the audit did cite non-financial benefits to the program. “Non-monetary returns associated with the seed project include expanding Alaska’s international market relations and expanding the knowledge base of seed potato diseases,” the audit said.

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