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Global spotlight on potatoes: May 30 to celebrate the first International Day of Potato

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) will celebrate the potato with the first-ever International Day of Potato on 30 May 2024. FAO will host a global hybrid event to mark the occasion to which national delegations, Members and all other interested parties are invited.

Endorsing a proposal led by Peru in December 2023, the United Nations General Assembly tasked FAO with facilitating the International Day which will be an annual event that builds on the success of the International Year of the Potato, observed in 2008.

Potatoes are the third most consumed food crop globally. They are eaten by billions of people and produced across a range of farming systems, from smallholders producing heirloom varieties by hand in the Andes, to vast commercial, mechanized farms in every continent of the world.

In the past decade, global production of potatoes has increased by 10 percent and that has resulted in more jobs and higher incomes 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. 

“Potatoes are one of the most widely known and liked crops around the world. But what is probably not known is its vast genetic diversity,” said Makiko Taguchi, Agricultural Officer of the Plant Production and Protection Division, FAO.

The potato was first cultivated around 8000 B.C. Currently, there are more than 5 000 varieties globally, including 4 000 native varieties mostly in the Andes region of South America. There are also about 180 wild species that are related to the crop. Potato is now a major global crop and is a staple food source in a variety of cultures and countries from Ireland to India.

The Day will provide a comprehensive platform to look at the role of potatoes in achieving food security, nutrition, and improved livelihoods; assess the constraints to the crop’s value chains and its potentials to transform agrifood systems and, ultimately contribute to achieving the UN SDGs.

Climate variability, reduced soil fertility and pests and diseases are among the challenges that potato is facing, Taguchi noted. “But the genetic diversity can be harnessed further to breed progressively superior varieties that can overcome these challenges” she said, adding that the Day will be an occasion to recognize the  contributions of small-scale farmers and Indigenous communities in the safeguarding of potato diversity over these past millennia.

FAO will also conduct a campaign to raise public awareness about the economic, social and environmental importance of potato and its contribution to food security and nutrition; share best practices and promote the development of sustainable value chains.

Members, UN organizations, international and regional organizations and other stakeholders, including civil society, Indigenous Peoples, the private sector, academia and schools are invited to participate in the newly established Day.

Source: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)
Photo: Irrigation project transforms lives in Bamiyan province, Afghanistan. Qasim Ail’s daughter holding fresh potatoes in her hands. Credit FAO/Hashim Azizi

Editor & Publisher: Lukie Pieterse


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