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World report: Revised FAO figures show slowdown in the rise of global potato production

The increase in world potato production stalled in 2018 and failed to recover significantly in 2019. World output slipped by 1.5% to 368.247 million tonnes in 2018 figures just released by the UN Food & Agriculture Organisation (FAO) show. However, that was still the third highest total ever after 2017 and 2014.

According to Cedric Porter, Managing Editor of World Potato Markets, there was a major adjustment in the area figures in 2018, which knocked onto production figures. He reports that the UN FAO estimated that the 158 countries it had figures for (or made calculations for) grew by 17.580 million hectares. Last year the organisation estimated a 2017 area figure of 19.099 million hectares – it has now downgraded the 2017 figure to 17.580 million hectare, a 7.9% reduction.

This World Potato Markets report was re-published with permission on the World Potato Congress Inc (WPC) website here.

According to information contained in the report, the biggest adjustments were in the Chinese and Russian areas. The new figures estimate that 4.813 million hectares of potatoes were grown in China in 2018, down 1.0% on 2017 and delivering 90.321 million tonnes of crop, which was 2.0% up on figures from the year before. Previous estimates suggested a 2017 Chinese crop of 99.206 million tonnes from 5.767 million hectares – a 16.5% difference in area. If the new figures are correct, China is further than ever from its long-term aim of doubling potato production to 200 million tonnes.

Meanwhile, according to the new estimates, Ukraine overtook neighbour Russia as the world’s third-largest grower of potatoes, after India in second place. Russia grew 22.395 million tonnes of potatoes in 2018, according to UN FAO, from 1.313 million hectares.

Using the new figures, average yields slipped 1.2% in 2018. Much of this was due to a big drop in yields in EU countries as a result of the 2018 European drought. The only continent to see an increase in potato plantings in 2018 was Africa – up 3.3% to 1.904 million hectares. The continent could overtake North America in 2019 or 2020 as the third largest producer of potatoes.

Even with the revised figures, China and India accounted for almost 40% of the world’s planted potato area in 2017. Other large Asian producers include Bangladesh, Pakistan and Kazakhstan.

Ukraine’s potential as a global potato player continues to be unfulfilled. It consistently grows more than 20 million tonnes of potatoes a year and its yields are edging upwards.

Potatoes continue to lag behind other crops when it comes to yield development. The crop is still by far the highest yielding compared to corn (maize), rice, soy and wheat, but they have seen much greater increases over the last 50 years. Average world potato yields increased from 14.3tonnes/hectare in 1968 to 20.9t/ha in 2018 but that was only a 46.2% increase. That compares to a 158.8% increase for corn, 135.5% for wheat, 109.6% for rice and 94.6% for soy.

Read the full World Potato Markets report (including graphs) on the World Potato Congress website here
World Potato Markets maintains a website here

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