“We have a tool in the potato to fight hunger and under-nutrition and lift people out of poverty,” Barbara Wells, International Potato Center (CIP) director general, stated in a keynote speech on global food security at the 9th World Potato Congress (WPC) in Beijing, China on July 28th.
Scientists and industry leaders from all sides of the potato production and processing spectrum make up the more than 800 attendees seeking to maximize the potato’s full potential to reduce hunger, improve diets, and stimulate economic growth. Wells encouraged participants to find synergies between the public and private spheres to provide pro-poor varieties of potatoes and market opportunities to the more than 1 billion people living on less than a dollar a day.
“Food security shouldn’t be viewed simply as an issue for NGOs, governments or world bodies to address,” Wells said. “The private sector and the world economy have an interest in increasing food security and improving nutrition and incomes of the world’s poor. The world loses 2-3% GDP annually due to hunger. According to FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization), every dollar invested in tackling hunger yields a return of $30. So by investing in the food security of the world’s poor we are investing in our collective well-being.” The potato is the third most consumed crop worldwide with more than a billion people consuming it on a regular basis and the numbers are on the rise. In as little as 50 years potato production has grown from 30 million tons in the early 60s to more than 219 million tons in 2012.
As the leading potato producer in the world—it produces 25% of the world’s potatoes— China is uniquely positioned to host the WPC. Since 1985 potato production in China has skyrocketed, almost tripling from 27 million to 73 million tons. This growth in large part is due to the partnership established between CIP and the Chinese government more than 35 years ago. For more than three decades CIP has joined forces with Chinese research institutes and government entities to tackle issues of food security through innovations in potato production. To date China has imported over 8,000 accessions of germplasm from CIP. A full 30% of the 84 popular potato varieties now used in China are related to CIP germplasm.
CIP-24, a disease-resistant potato clone, helped launch the CIP-Chinese government partnership in 1978. It is still grown on over 70,000 hectares mainly in China’s Northern drought-prone provinces. Cooperation-88, released in 1995 by Yunnan Normal University using CIP germplasm, is now widely cultivated not only in China but neighboring Vietnam and Myanmar thanks to its late blight resistance and solid marketability.
The CIP-Chinese partnership will deepen with the opening of the CIP-China Center for Asia Pacific (CCCAP) research campus currently under construction in Yanqing County— host to the WPC. CCCAP will be a world-class root and tuber research center that will continue to advance the goals of CIP to lift people out of poverty while fighting hunger and undernutrition.
“What is different in 2015 is the playing field for potato has changed,” Wells said. “The world is producing and consuming potatoes more than ever before. The opportunities to provide pro‐poor varieties and technologies where potato already exists are clear.”
Wells challenged attendees to work together to “connect the dots between what you do and these opportunities. No matter what your role in the industry is, there is a place for you to contribute to food security around the world.” In addition to Wells’ keynote speech, CIP is well represented at the Congress: Wells will also deliver the opening address for the International Workshop on Potato-Derived Staple Food Products and Industry Development; CIP Board Chairman, Rodney Cooke, will chair a keynote session; and CIP’s Deputy Director General for Research and Development, Oscar Ortiz, will give a speech on potato diversity and utilization in Peru.