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Local growers opening door to the Far East

Cooperative effort starts to pay off for Klamath Basin agriculture

By Kehn Gibson

Klamath Courier Editor

Published 27 Oct. 04

MALIN - Company executives from one of the largest suppliers of potato products in Asia visited the Klamath Basin Thursday, seeking new varieties and a consistent supply of potatoes to feed their factories in Korea.

Hosted by the Oregon Potato Commission and escorted by local potato growers Wong Potatoes, R&R Enterprises, and Baley-Trotman Farms were Un-Soo Lee, general manager of the Nong Shim Company's Potato Research division, and Bael-Gil Seong, who manages Snack Development.

Nong Shim is one of the Pacific Rim's largest suppliers of potato products, with several factories in Korea in addition to factories in other Pacific Rim countries. Lee and Seong were specifically interested in two items, said one of their escorts, Merrill's Dan Chin of Wong Potatoes.

"There is a chip out called a medley, that I think is made in New York," Chin explained. "The chips are multi-colored, and these guys saw that and I think they are very intrigued."

The second item, Chin said, was supply.

"They are very interested in buying potatoes to supply their factories," Chin said. "And I mean right now."

In the past, Pacific Rim markets have been difficult to enter, Chin said, in part because of the logistics involved in getting the product to Korea in a quality condition, and in part because of the closed nature of the Pacific Rim in general.

Yet a consistent effort over several years by local growers and the Oregon Potato Commission is starting to yield results.

On Thursday, Lee and Seong visited the Baley-Trotman potato shed in Malin, seeking the best potato that would produce red-, green-, and gold-colored potato chips. The Baley-Trotman shed has an extensive testing station, allowing Lee and Seong to observe the chips each variety of potato produced in concert with test results listing the sugar content of each.

"We want to find a special color of potato," said Seong. "We will test market the chip next year and, if the consumer likes them, for the years after."

Lee and Seong showed particular interest in Yukon Golds, purple potatoes, and the red-skinned red-fleshed potatoes, Chin said.

When asked about why the traditional rivalries between competitors had faded for this visit, Chin was direct in his answer.

"It's all of us working together to open up a new market," Chin said. "That is good for all of us."

 

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