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Dr H.P. Singh *

1.  Introduction

The potato (Solanum tuberosum L.), belonging to the family Solanaceae, grown in about 18.6 million ha in 150 countries with an estimated production of 322 million tonnes annually, is the fourth most important commodity, exceeded only by maize (637 million tonnes), rice (585 million tonnes) and wheat (549 million tonnes), and is consumed by billions of people across the globe. Half of all the potato produced is used in the developing countries. Since the potato gives an exceptionally high yield, produces more edible energy and protein per unit area and time than many other crops, fits well into multiple-cropping systems prevalent in tropical and subtropical agroclimatic conditions, its cultivation is profitable and it provides employment. Thus, potato cultivation is expanding rapidly in developing countries.

There has been a paradigm shift both in area and production of the potato from developed to developing countries during the last five decades because of rapid technological advances — mainly the development of improved varieties, modern agrotechniques for ware and seed potato production, and post-harvest management and utilization. Whereas the developed countries make the most diversified use of potatoes as food, feed and raw material for processed products, starch and alcohol, the developing countries are increasingly adopting the potato primarily as a food crop.

The share of developing countries in world potato area rose from 15.1 percent in 1961 to 51.0 percent in 2005. In 1961, potatoes produced in the developing countries accounted for 10.5 percent of the global output; today, they account for about 47.2 percent. It is not surprising that the potato has also emerged as one of the most important food crops in Asia and the Pacific region. Averaged over the three-year period of 2003 to 2005, the potato was grown on 7.3 million ha in 28 countries of Asia and the Pacific region, producing about 121.7 million tons with an average productivity of 16.49 tons/ha (Table 1). The share of the region in the world area and production of potato was 39.27 percent and 37.71 percent, respectively. Although potato productivity in the region varied widely from 2.50 tons/ha in Timor-Leste to 44.25 tons/ha in New Zealand, average potato productivity (16.49 tons/ha) was just a little less than the world average (17.18 tons/ha). China and India alone accounted for about 79 percent of the area and production of potato in the region. Clearly, increased potato production in other countries of Asia and the Pacific region could play an important role in providing livelihoods to the region’s large population. With appropriate policy, the region may emerge as a major producer of potatoes both for domestic use and export.

2.  Opportunities, challenges and strategies

According to the estimates published by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) and the International Potato Center (CIP), developing countries will have higher growth rates in production and productivity of potatoes during 1993 to 2020 (Table 2). According to these growth rates, total potato production in the world in 2020 will be 403.5 million tonnes with China producing about 87.8 million tonnes and India 43.3 million tonnes. During the same period, worldwide demand for potatoes for food, processing and animal feed is expected to increase by about 40 percent (Table 3). There are several challenges to achieving these targets, namely an increasing population, the decreasing amount of arable land, the reducing water availability, and improved purchasing power leading to an increased demand for food, more environmental degradation, a reduction in input use efficiency and adverse changes in climate and sea-levels. Since land and water are shrinking resources for agriculture, there is no other option except to produce more food from less land and water. In other words, we have to produce more food per unit land, water, energy and time. The other major constraints in potato production have been the incidence of a wide range of pests, difficulties in production and distribution of quality seed, inadequacies of transport and cold storage facilities, indiscriminate use of pesticides resulting in environmental problems, emergence of new pests and price fluctuations. Under this scenario some of the strategies to increase potato production in an environmentally, economically and socially sustainable manner are given below.

3.  Varietal situation

Most of the countries in Asia and the Pacific region are using potato varieties bred for the growing conditions of Europe or the United States. These varieties are not specifically adapted to the agroclimatic conditions of the country where they are grown. Cultivation of exotic potato varieties cannot be stopped in these countries because many of them do not have appropriate research and development systems for indigenous varieties. However, it would be in the best interest of these countries to evaluate the exotic varieties before they are recommended for large- scale production. The government of each country should work out a strategy, similar to the All India Coordinated Research Projects, to evaluate potential potato varieties and advanced hybrids under local growing conditions before adopting their large-scale cultivation. The evaluation could be done in a participatory mode involving potato breeders, farmers, processors and other stakeholders of the region. A mechanism for intergovernmental exchange of advanced breeding materials has also to be worked out. The expertise and resources of the CIP can be helpful in this regard.

In India, the focus has been on developing cultivars resistant to phytophthora, suitable under short-day conditions and also for cultivars with high dry-matter content. In fact, Indian potato varieties are already popular in many of the countries in the region. The selections I-822 and I-1085 are grown as the cultivars Krushi and Sita, respectively, in Sri Lanka; I-1035 is grown as the cultivars Montonosa in the Philippines and Mailaka in Madagascar; I-1039 is grown as the cultivars Red Skin in Viet Nam and BSUP-04 in the Philippines. Furthermore, Indian potato varieties enjoy a high degree of consumer preference in this region. Two Indian varieties, Kufri Chandramukhi and Kufri Lauvkar, are very popular in Afghanistan and can be equally good in other central Asian countries. Thus, the varietal development programme of India would better suit the region rather than the long-day variety programmes. The emphasis has also to be on developing heat tolerant and drought resistant cultivars.

4.  Visualizing ideotypes and their development

In contrast to other major food crops, not much work has been done on developing ideotypes in the potato. It is, therefore, necessary to identify the ideal agronomic attributes of the potato plant that can give the highest yield in a given agro-ecological region. If such ideotypes for different agro-ecological regions are clearly defined, it will make the breeding efforts much easier. The potato varieties commercially grown throughout the world have originated from only a few genotypes introduced from South America and hence the genetic base in these varieties is very narrow. The large and valuable potato gene pool available has not been exploited to the extent it should have been. Prebreeding approaches for combining desirable attributes from wild species with commercial cultivars need to be given priority. To overcome interspecific sexual barriers between cultivated and wild potato species, breeding at dihaploid level and modern techniques of protoplast fusion can be employed. A molecular marker is another valuable tool that can be of much help in refining breeding methods for quantitative traits and also in gene pyramiding.

5.  Enhanced breeding efficiency using molecular tools

Conventional potato breeding is a lengthy process involving hybridization, selection, initial evaluation, multilocation evaluations, and release of a variety. From hybridization to release of a variety takes about 10 to 12 years. Sometimes a high-yielding variety falls short of expectation because of the lack of one attribute or a few specific attributes. Such specific traits can be incorporated into well adapted high-yielding varieties by genetic engineering. Some important traits that can be introgressed through genetic engineering are: (i) resistance to biotic and abiotic stresses like late blight, potato viruses, bacterial wilt, major insect and nematode pests, drought and salinity; (ii) enhancement of nitrate and phosphate uptake by the root system; (iii) improvement of the nutritional quality of tubers; and (iv) modification of starch for making it more suitable for industry. However, it is necessary to address environmental and food safety issues associated with transgenics and the developments need be transparent.

6.  Ensuring availability of good quality seeds

Quality planting material is one of the most important ingredients in successful potato cultivation. Shortage of good quality seed is recognized as the most important factor inhibiting potato production throughout the world. The availability of quality planting material of improved potato varieties in adequate quantities, therefore, is the major issue that needs to be attended by respective national agricultural research systems. Once a strong formal seed system is in place it needs to be integrated with informal seed systems, the private seed sector, progressive farmers, seed village clusters, co-operatives and NGOs so that benefits of new varieties and technological advances percolate to the farming communities. Training of the extension officers and farmers through Farmer Field Schools (FFS) would be an effective medium here.

The seed tubers account for nearly 40 to 50 percent of the total cost of cultivation. Seed production in vegetatively propagated crops like the potato is beset with problems of low seed multiplication rate (1:6 per generation), a low proportion of seed-sized tubers in the produce, high production cost, and high rate of degeneration. Therefore, a high level of technical skill is required for potato seed production. India and Japan have organized disease-free seed production systems and China is developing its own seed production system. Because of the huge quantity of seed potato required, it will be difficult for most countries to satisfy their own seed requirement. Therefore, each country should conduct a detailed survey to identify suitable areas for production and multiplication of quality seed and seek assistance of those countries in the region that have expertise. The selected area should be free from soil-borne pathogens like wart, cyst nematode, bacterial wilt, black scurf, and common scab, and a low aphid or aphid-free period of at least 75 days after planting the crop should be ensured. The minimum and maximum temperature should be within the range 8 to 28 oC during the growing season. Alternatively, a seed production programme can be implemented under protected conditions.

A suitable package of practices for the production of healthy seed tubers may require refinement depending upon the location. The seed plot technique developed in India has made it possible to grow seeds even on the plain. Since a large quantity of seed tubers is required for potato cultivation, it would be difficult to satisfy the entire seed demand of a country from a formal seed production system. In many countries of the region the majority of the farmers still use locally produced seed tubers like other cereal crops. Unlike cereals, however, deterioration of seed quality is very fast in the case of the potato. Therefore, an innovative strategy like the concept of a “seed village”, which envisages the establishment of a local seed bank through appropriate intervention, has to be worked out for maintaining the health standard of locally produced seed potato through an informal system.

Since potato seed production is a technically challenging enterprise, private participation should be encouraged for production and distribution of quality seed. The private sector should be given incentives to establish the seed production system. It has to be subsequently ensured that the micro propagation technique is adopted for the production of quality seeds. Registration of private firms as well as farmers growing different stages of seed potato should be made compulsory. The labelling of seed bags should be enforced stringently so that the source can be identified in case of any doubt in health standards. There should be an appropriate institutional mechanism to monitor the seed multiplication activities on private as well as public farms. This agency should be responsible for maintaining uniform quality parameters and health standards of seed potato and for estimation of the demand/supply situation of seed potato in the country. Seed potato warehouses/distribution centres need to be established at each of the potato growing regions of the country so as to facilitate credible linkages between the seed suppliers and buyers.

The true potato seed (TPS) technology developed and adopted in India has a great potential in this region. The cost of TPS is negligible when compared to seed tubers. Moreover, it can save the entire transportation cost of seed tubers from long distance. The TPS technology is becoming popular in Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Nepal, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, and Viet Nam. Basic research is required on TPS development by apomixis and parthenogenesis in commercial potato cultivars.

7.  Plant health management

Diseases, insect pests and weeds are major constraints in achieving full yield potential in the potato. The losses resulting from these biotic stresses are around 40 percent and if we add about 20 percent post-harvest losses, the situation becomes more alarming. Indiscriminate use of chemical pesticides has resulted in the emergence of more aggressive pests because of resistance development, residual problems in food and drinking water, and ecological imbalance as a result of the elimination of beneficial micro-organisms and insects. Therefore, for sustainability of the potato crop, these biotic stresses need to be managed through ecofriendly measures supported by need-based and judicious use of chemicals to achieve high economic returns without disturbing the environmental balance. Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is one of the most economically viable and environmentally safe key technologies to increase crop productivity.

Since, the potato is largely propagated by tubers, there is a great risk of introducing alien pathogens or pests through seed tubers. In fact, most of the potato pathogens that are now prevalent in the region have been transferred through seed. Furthermore, most of the countries in the region are geographically contiguous, which facilitates the transboundary spread of diseases and pests. A database of prevalent pests and diseases of the potato in all countries of the region should be created for quick assessment of pest risk.

Establishing plant health clinics with public or private participation would be a good idea too. Such clinics would provide the latest techniques and equipments for diagnosis and detection of potato pathogens. Countries with relatively better infrastructure for disease diagnosis may be encouraged to support the smaller nations in the region. The clinics should be manned by agricultural graduates with training on plant disease diagnostics.

Potato late blight caused by Phytophthora infestans is the most devastating disease of the potato having the potential of causing 40 to 50 percent loss to the farmers. Tackling late blight should be the priority of the region and a working group should be constituted urgently. A joint effort should be initiated to renew and broaden the base of late blight resistance in potato cultivars. A collaborative project for refinement and validation of available late blight forecasting models should be taken up immediately. The forecasting model should integrate remote sensing data of the entire region for comprehensive and quick coverage. The forecast should be given wide publicity through national and regional communication media.

The use of large quantities of pesticides by the farmers, especially for the control of late blight in the potato, has created problems of groundwater pollution, toxic residues in table potato, resistance development in pests and ecological imbalance. Only need-based fungicidal spray based on disease forecasting and cultivar resistance should be advocated. Ecofriendly tuber treatment schedules using safe botanical or chemical agents should be worked out and popularized in the region. It is also essential to have in place an institutional system to ensure the quality.

8.  Biotechnological approaches

Biotechnology could play a key role in the improvement of the potato in the future. Since the potato crop is highly amenable to modern biotechnological tools, basic research on genomics and bio-informatics should be encouraged so that the full potential of the crop can be exploited. Meristem culture and the rapid multiplication strategy should be used extensively for cleaning of seed stock and breeders’ seed production. In addition, molecular markers should be effectively integrated in potato breeding schemes wherever possible. Conventional potato breeding is a lengthy process involving hybridization, selection, initial evaluation, multilocational trials, and release of a variety; this takes about 10 to 12 years. Development of transgenics through genetic engineering is an effective tool for obtaining a desired trait without disturbing the plant’s genetic make-up. Development of genetically modified (GM) potato varieties for biotic and abiotic stress tolerance and for improving nutritional and processing attributes have to receive priority. However, transgenic techniques should be followed only when the desired resistance cannot be obtained by conventional breeding.

In most of the countries in the region, agriculture is the backbone of the national economy. Therefore, GM crops could eventually be of higher value in these countries compared to GM crops in rich countries. Yet, at the same time, most of the countries have a weak scientific, technical, and regulatory capacity for safe development and use of GM crops. Close cooperation among the partner countries is required to evolve a rational approach for development and release of GM potatoes. For access to promising technologies there could be a common pool of relevant intellectual property rights (IPR) for sharing among the partners. The RB gene for conferring late blight horizontal resistance can be a model system for working out an IPR sharing strategy. Conflicting and often divergent policies toward GM technologies in developed countries have created a complicated problem of policy choice in the developing world. It has become extremely difficult to decide whether to follow the more permissive United States approach or the more precautionary European Union approach. The region may work out a common rational approach for addressing IPR, biosafety, trade, food safety and consumer choice policies for GM potatoes.

9.  Production system management

Degradation of natural resources, soil, water and the environment, has been a cause of concern, and the development of technologies to manage the natural resources in a sustainable manner is a priority. In this context, biofertilizers can supplement the use of fertilizers in an ecofriendly manner. Similarly, enhancing water productivity “crop per drop” is one of the approaches for the sustainable use of water. Micro-irrigation/fertigation has proved beneficial in potato cultivation. Vast tracts of arable land are fast becoming unfit for cultivation because of salinity. Suitable management practices should be devised for bioremediation of degraded soils. Modern biotechnological tools, including transgenic bacteria and biosensors, can be deployed for this purpose.

Except a few countries in the region, the average yield of potatoes is below 20 tonnes/ha compared to the physiological potential of 120 tonnes/ha. There is a wide intracountry and intercountry gap in potato production in the region. For example, yields as high as 70 tonnes/ha have been reported from New Zealand compared to 8 tonnes/ha in Kazakhstan. Similarly, there is wide variation in yield among different regions of bigger countries like China and India. Keeping in view the yield gap and diminishing per capita availability of agricultural land in Asia and the Pacific region, there is a great challenge to improve the potato yield. This could be done through adoption of improved varieties and appropriate production technologies.

In this regard, in India, the Central Potato Research Institute has played a key role in providing technological innovations in terms of cultivars, production technologies, plant health management, value addition and processing. An institutional arrangement at regional level could be made for the import of suitable promising varieties from donor countries having similar agroclimatic conditions. In order to effectively manage the inputs like fertilizer, soil-test values have to be used leading to precision farming. In order to achieve these goals it is imperative that governments launch soil health improvement programmes in the major potato producing countries of the region.

The potato crop requires 300 to 500 mm of water per growing season. With increasing demands for food and depleting ground water levels, water scarcity is going to be a serious problem in the entire region. Also, with climate change resulting from global warming, the precipitation has become highly variable often leading to droughts at critical stages of the crop cultivation. Construction of minor irrigation structures for rainwater harvesting and use of drip irrigation should be encouraged. The Asian countries have the highest population pressure on agricultural land with India and Bangladesh at the top of the list. Also, the share of population dependent on agriculture continues to be high in this region even in the rapidly industrializing countries. Thus, there is no option except to produce more food per unit area and time. The potato crop with short duration varieties of 80 to 90 days can fit well in various intensive cropping systems. India has successfully demonstrated this practice through a number of short duration potato varieties. These Indian varieties like Kufri Chandramukhi, K. Pukhraj, K. Ashoka, K. Jawahar, etc. could be utilized by other Asian countries having similar agroclimatic conditions. For this purpose, the International Potato Center could be entrusted to identify the available short duration potato varieties in the region and their suitability to countries with similar agroclimatic conditions.

10.  Extending the shelf life of produce

In European countries, the potato crop is grown in the summer and the main storage season is the cold winter. However, in most of the Asian countries, the potato is largely produced in winter and stored during the long hot summer. The potato being a semi-perishable crop rots at higher temperatures. This requires storing potatoes at 2 to 4 oC. Although India and some other countries in the region have sufficient cold storage capacity, there are many countries where cold storage capacity needs to be expanded to provide a boost to potato cultivation. Conventionally, potatoes are stored at temperatures of 2 to 4 oC that spoil the culinary properties of the tubers. Recently, a breakthrough technology of storing ware and processing potatoes at 10 to12 oC with Chlorpropam (CIPC) treatment to inhibit sprouting and shrinking has been developed in India. This technology can save a lot of electrical energy in addition to preserving the quality of ware and processing potatoes. This technology should be popularized in all the countries of the region where potatoes are produced as a winter crop.

Cold storage involves substantial costs that resource-poor farmers cannot afford. There are a number of traditional low-cost and non-refrigerated storage structures (essentially based on evaporative or passive evaporative cooling) like sand pits, diffused light storage rooms, thatched mud wall rooms, on-farm heaps under tree shade, etc., which are used by the farmers of various countries. These structures do not require electric energy and are suitable to store potatoes for three to four months. These traditional structures with or without CIPC treatment and other modifications should be popularized and encouraged with government support. In this regard, CIP could take the lead in identification, documentation and validation of indigenous technical knowledge pertaining to the storage of potatoes in different countries of the region.

11. Value addition and processing

Potato processing is a fast growing agricultural subsector worldwide. However, potato processing in developing countries is far behind that in developed countries. For example, the processing of potatoes constitutes only about 2 percent of the total annual production in India compared to 55 percent in the Netherlands and 60 percent in the United States. In most of the countries of Asia and the Pacific region a substantial part of the potato crop is produced in spring and summer seasons at higher altitudes in addition to the main winter season. Thus, the supply chain from different areas could be integrated through appropriate interventions to ensure that the potato processing industries run on profitable lines throughout the year. Similarly, CIPC-treated potatoes stored at 10 to12 oC can feed the processing industries for a longer period.

In most of the developing countries, more than 90 percent of potato processing is done in the unorganized sector. The organized potato processing sector has not proliferated because of the lack of suitable indigenous potato processing varieties. India is one country in the region that has developed four indigenous potato varieties especially for processing, namely Kufri Chipsona-1, Kufri Chipsona-2, Kufri Chipsona-3 and Kufri Himsona. These varieties could be utilized by other countries of the region having similar agroclimatic conditions. Besides, the governments of each country should support funding of research for the development of indigenous potato processing varieties. In many countries of the region, organized retailers and potato processors are becoming established and subsequently so are direct linkages between rural economies and industry. All the national governments of the region should encourage this trend through appropriate legislation in order to boost the potato processing sector. Public-private partnerships should be encouraged for research applications and investment in marketing infrastructure.

12. Marketing and trade

Only 2 to 3 percent of about 322 million tonnes of world potato production is traded internationally. Import and export of fresh potatoes from and to developed countries account for 83 and 86 percent of total world trade, respectively. The export share of developing countries for fresh potatoes (14.3 percent) and frozen potatoes (2.9 percent) is not commensurate with their 47 percent contribution to world potato production. The export of potatoes from developing countries faces several constraints and concrete measures to address these need to be undertaken. Surveys of potential export markets and strengthening of suitable infrastructure for export like cold storage, surface transportation and shipping facilities are essential components of successful exports. The database on potato exports, price, grade standards, phytosanitary standards, processing standards, consumer preferences, seed standards, etc. need to be prepared for all importing countries so that all information is readily available to the exporters and manufacturers.

The export and import of potatoes mainly takes place within European countries and five other countries, namely Canada, Cyprus, Egypt, Turkey and the United States. The trade among these countries account for 80 percent of the global potato trade. Asia’s share in export and import of potatoes is only 9.8 percent and 11.6 percent, respectively. The countries of Asia and the Pacific region can supply fresh potatoes year-round because potatoes are grown throughout the year in one or the other part of the region, unlike in European countries where potatoes are grown only during the summer months. The poor trade performance of potatoes among the countries of Asia and the Pacific region can be attributed to several factors such as trade barriers, lack of marketing infrastructure, lack of seed production systems and poor market intelligence. As mentioned above, a database on potato exports, price grade standards, phytosanitary standards, processing standards, consumer preferences, seed standards, etc. needs to be prepared for all importing countries.

Many of the countries in this region import the seed material from European countries, mainly the Netherlands, which dominates the world seed potato export market. However, the European varieties are not suitable for the agroclimates of Asian countries. Hence, it is imperative for all the countries of the region to develop their own seed potato production programme or to import the seed from other countries within the region. In this regard, India and Japan could play a significant role in providing the expertise and basic seed material.

Because of domestic pricing policies related to food items, the governments of developing countries often find it difficult to target the export of a particular food commodity, including potatoes. Nevertheless, to facilitate the export of potatoes, areas suitable for growing export quality potatoes exclusively should be identified in each country and agri-export zones should be established in the vicinity of such areas. The produce from these areas could be properly labelled and popularized in the international market so as to create credibility for it. In most of the countries of the region, the marketing of potatoes is mainly in the hands of the private sector. The commodity has to pass through a number of market intermediaries to reach the consumers. This coupled with a lack of market infrastructure results in lower returns to the producers and the loss of about 20 percent of the produce in its transit. Also, there is lack of market integration within and between the countries because of the non-availability of market information. Integration of different potato markets in the region through a market intelligence network has to be a priority.

Among the East Asian countries, China and Democratic People’s Republic of Korea are developing countries, whereas Japan and the Republic of Korea are developed countries. Because of high standards of living and domestic settlement policies, agriculture is largely not viable in Japan and the Republic of Korea. However, Japan has a well developed seed potato production system, which is lacking in other East Asian countries. On the other hand, China is the world’s largest potato producer and has abundant cheap labour. Thus, Japan could become a major supplier of seed potatoes to other countries, whereas China could be the major exporter of table and processed potatoes.

The countries of Southeast Asia have fast growing economies with an expanding middle class. These countries are also promoting tourism vigorously to attract domestic and foreign tourists. As a result, the demand for processed foods, especially processed potatoes, is rapidly increasing. India, with its indigenous processing potato varieties like Kufri Chipsona-1, Kufri Chipsona-2 and Kufri Chipsona-3 could play a major role in the supply of raw material and processed potato products. India also has a vast network of potato processing in the organized and unorganized sectors, whose expertise could be utilized in technical and capacity-building support to the Southeast Asian countries.

13. Capacity building and technology transfer

This region is confronted with high levels of poverty and low levels of literacy in the rural areas, particularly among women. As a result, there is a low level of adoption of agricultural technologies, including potato technologies, by the farmers. Hence, there is a case for providing technical and capacity building support to potato producers in Asian countries. In this regard, India has a vast amount of manpower working on the potato. Out of 28 states in India, more than ten states have well established seed potato production networks under the departments of agriculture/horticulture. These departments have well trained personnel whose expertise could be utilized for imparting training to the farmers of other Asian countries. The Central Potato Research Institute at Shimla, for example, has seven research stations in various regions of the country with a total of 109 scientists working on potato research and development. The country also has an All India Coordinated Research Project on Potato with 22 centres and 37 scientists working on potato development. This scientific manpower could also be utilized by other Asian countries to train their extension personnel through faculty exchange programmes. The participating countries need to establish norms/institutional arrangements for sharing knowledge and information.

The Oceania region comprises Australia and New Zealand and has a low human to land ratio and a high standard of living. New Zealand is also bestowed with high average potato productivity levels of around 45 tonnes per hectare. This region has vast potential to expand the area under potato cultivation. Since the productivity levels are high because of the moderately cool climate, the two countries could serve as the ‘potato basket’ of the world if proper strategies are adopted for self-sustaining seed potato production and processing of potatoes. The increasing knowledge pool of potato research and development in the region will require information and communication technologies to facilitate rapid dissemination and exchange among farmers, extension workers, researchers and policy-makers. Now, e-marketing has enabled farmers to get maximum returns from their produce through direct access to consumers via digital markets. Such efforts are needed on the part of all the countries in the region to ensure better incomes for potato growers.

In the wake of the liberalization of the global economy, several national and multinational companies involved in marketing of table, seed and processed potatoes have started contract farming in different countries. This type of farming can enable small farmers’ participation in the market economy. It seeks not only to transform the small farmer into a viable commercial producer but also links production with consumption. Contract farming has the potential of reducing the risk and uncertainty of the fluctuating potato price by creating links with a stable and sustainable market. It also contributes to technology transfer by providing new and better farming skills to the contract farmers. These companies also offer economies of scale to the mainly small and marginal farmers through providing opportunities for processing, value addition and export. Keeping in view the advantages of contract farming, the governments of the region must provide adequate policy support to this system of farming. Adequate safeguard measures also need to be taken to monitor the production activities of these companies so that the farmers are not exploited.

A potato cooperative movement could be started in each country involving the potato growers, self-help groups and development agencies to organize the potato growers into national level potato federations. This type of arrangement would provide a network for linking the production activities with storage, distribution and supply to the end users. The average per capita consumption of potatoes in Asian countries (14 kg/year) is much less that in European countries (86 kg/year), despite the fact that the potato is a nourishing and wholesome food. This is a result of wrong notions about the nutritional value of potatoes. Hence, there is ample scope for improving the consumption of potatoes in these countries through publicity campaigns in the mass media.

14. Conclusions

The potato is important both for the consumer and the grower, as the crop provides higher income per unit and time. This also provides opportunities for downstream employment. In the quest for ensuring food security with a shrinking quantity of arable land, reduced water availability, changing climate and expanding biotic and abiotic stresses, the potato may play a significant role within an effective policy framework and strategic research and development approaches. Evidently, potato production is shifting to Asia and the Pacific region as demonstrated by the fact that the total production percentage has increased. This provides both opportunities and challenges. Thus, to convert a weakness into an opportunity, a sound policy framework conducive for potato development has to be developed. The policy should cover both research and development.

Table 1.  Potato production in Asia and the Pacific region (Triennial averages for 2003-2005)


Area (000 ha)

Yield (tons/ha)

Production (million t)














4 408.93



Democratic People’s Republic of Korea




Fiji Islands





1 390.00







Iran (Islamic Rep. of)
















Lao People’s Democratic Republic
















New Zealand








Papua New Guinea








Republic of Korea




Sri Lanka
























Viet Nam




Asia and the Pacific region (Total/Average)

7 379.14




18 792.68



(Source: FAOSTAT data, February 2006)

Table 2.   Projected production and productivity growth rates (Average annual percent)
for potato, 1993-2020 according to two scenarios (A and B)


Production growth rate

Productivity growth rate

2020 A*

2020 B

2020 A

2020 B











Developing countries










* According to IFPRI’s International Model for Policy Analysis of Agricultural Commodities and Trade (IMPACT), 2000. A= Baseline scenario and B= High demand/production growth scenario.

Table 3. Projected annual growth rates (Average annual percent)
for demand of potatoes for food and feed, 1993-2020





A *




















Developing countries







Developed countries














* According to IFPRI’s International Model for Policy Analysis of Agricultural Commodities and Trade (IMPACT), 2000. A= Baseline scenario and B= High demand/production growth scenario.

* Deputy Director-General (Horticulture), Indian Council of Agricultural Research, Krishi Ausandhan Bhavan –II, Pusa, New Delhi 110012, India

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