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World Gears Up for Inaugural International Day of the Potato

Highlighting the crop's crucial role in combating hunger, poverty, and environmental challenges, FAO is set to promote healthier consumption methods and celebrate the cultural significance of the potato worldwide.

KJ Staff
International Day of Potato will be Commemorated on May 30 (Photo Source: Pexels.com)
International Day of Potato will be Commemorated on May 30 (Photo Source: Pexels.com)

As the world gears up to commemorate the inaugural International Day of the Potato next month, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) is emphasizing the profound significance of this humble crop that sustains billions of people worldwide and highlighting its untapped potential.

In a recent publication, FAO launched a comprehensive guide to mark the upcoming International Day, slated for May 30, themed "Harvesting Diversity, Feeding Hope." This day aims to highlight the critical role of potatoes in combating hunger, poverty, and environmental challenges within agrifood systems.

Central to the celebration is the recognition of small-scale family farmers, particularly women, who play a crucial role in preserving the diversity of this crop and in celebrating its cultural and culinary importance. Originally cultivated in the Andes Mountains, the potato, revered as the "flower of ancient Inca civilization," has traversed continents since its introduction to Europe in the 16th century, becoming a staple crop globally within just five centuries.

Makiko Taguchi, an agronomist at FAO, stresses the importance of promoting healthier methods of potato consumption beyond the commonly associated items like french fries and potato chips. The International Day will showcase diverse and nutritious ways of preparing and consuming potatoes, aligning to preserve varietal diversity.

Maintaining the diversity of potato varieties is crucial not only for nutritional reasons but also for resilience against pests, diseases, and climate change impacts. FAO's efforts include supporting farmers and Indigenous Peoples in managing common diseases like Late Blight, promoting innovative solutions for resource-efficient potato cultivation, and fostering cooperation along the crop's value chain.

The FAO guide outlines actionable steps for various stakeholders to promote sustainable potato production and consumption. Governments and international organizations are urged to create supportive policies, invest in research, and strengthen the potato value chain. Food businesses are encouraged to innovate and offer nutritious potato products while minimizing waste. Parents and educators are called upon to instill healthy eating habits, including locally sourced potatoes in meals. Civil society is urged to organize events celebrating potato culture and supporting fair and profitable value chains.

Key facts and figures highlight the critical role of potato diversity in global food security, with over 5,000 varieties adapting to different environments and climates. Potatoes rank as the third most consumed food crop globally, after rice and wheat, sustaining two-thirds of the world's population. Despite a decrease in global potato cultivation area, improved varieties and agronomic practices have boosted production. Currently, 159 countries cultivate potatoes across 17.8 million hectares, yielding a staggering 374 million tons annually.

A notable conservation initiative highlighted is the 12,000-hectare potato park in the Peruvian Andes, where Indigenous Peoples manage their genetic resources, preserving traditional knowledge and biodiversity.

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