Observance helps highlight the potato’s importance for global agriculture, economic development, food security and nutrition
11 December 2023, Rome: The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) today welcomed the UN’s decision to designate 30 May as International Day of Potato, an opportunity to raise awareness of a crop regularly consumed by billions of people and of global importance for food security and nutrition.
The annual observance was championed by Peru, which submitted a proposal for adoption to the UN General Assembly based on an FAO Conference Resolution of July 7, 2023. The impetus for the Day, which builds upon the International Year of Potato that was observed in 2008, originates from the need to emphasize the significant role of the potato in tackling prevalent global issues, such as food insecurity, poverty and environmental threats.
“This International Day will shed light on the significant value of the potato – nutritional, economic, environmental and cultural. It will also highlight the contribution of the potato to global food security, poverty reduction and the livelihoods of millions, while emphasizing the key role of Indigenous Peoples knowledge and practices,” said FAO Deputy Director-General Beth Bechdol.
The Day “will allow us to draw attention to the importance of this ancestral crop in sustaining efforts to reduce hunger, malnutrition and poverty; as well as to encourage agricultural development, food security, biodiversity conservation and ecosystem functions,” Víctor García Toma, Permanent Representative of Peru to the United Nations told the General Assembly today.
One crop, much potential
A millennia-old food with origins in the South American Andes region that made its way to Europe in the 16th century then spread around the world, the potato is much more than a source of nourishment.
Potatoes are an important component of strategies to provide accessible and nutritious food and improved livelihoods in rural and other areas where natural resources, especially arable land and water are limited and inputs expensive. The crop’s versatility and ability to grow in a variety of conditions make it an advantageous crop choice.
Potatoes are also a climate-friendly crop as they produce low levels of greenhouse gas emissions in comparison to other crops.
In the past decade, global production of potatoes has increased by 10 percent leading to growth in employment and income but, more work still needs to be done to harness the full potential of the crop in the quest to end hunger and malnutrition globally.
In addition, there is a wide spectrum of diversity among potatoes, with over 5,000 improved varieties and farmers’ varieties/landraces, many of which are unique to their original location in Latin America. The 150 wild relatives of the cultivated potato show a wide genetic variation with a range of traits, including the ability to adapt to different production environments, resistance to pests and diseases, and different tuber characteristics. They are a repository of the heritable traits for the continued genetic improvement of the crop to respond to ever changing environmental conditions, new biotypes of pests and diseases and consumers’ preferences.
FAO’s work: challenges and concrete actions
Potato production faces several threats and challenges, especially pests and diseases, such as the virulent late blight and its various forms, as well as bacterial wilt, blackleg, Colorado potato beetle, lesser leaf blight, cyst nematodes, and numerous other. The much-desired greater cultivation and consumption of potatoes, especially in developing countries, are also constrained by weaknesses along the crop’s value chain, ranging from low availability of quality seeds and suboptimal agricultural practices, through inadequate storage and processing facilities to limited access to markets.
FAO is committed to supporting its Members to build resilient, context-specific value chains for potato. The observance of the International Day of Potato will fully align with FAO’s Strategic Framework 2022-31, which aims to support the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development through the transformation to more efficient, inclusive, resilient and sustainable agrifood systems for better production, better nutrition, a better environment and a better life, leaving no one behind.
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