Peruvian potatoes star at Mistura

More than 100 Andean producers will participate in the fair, with over 60 tons of both native and improved varieties expected to be sold during the six-day event, running from 7 to 12 September. Also on sale will be chuño or tunta, one of the oldest foods known to mankind. For generations, Andean farmers have been taking advantage of the high levels of solar radiation and overnight frosts in the highlands to naturally produce this freeze-dried potato.

“The idea is for the people who visit Mistura to really encounter native potatoes,” says Miguel Ordinola, Project Coordinator from the International Potato Center (CIP) for the Innovation and Competitiveness for Peruvian Potato (INCOPA) Project which is funded by Swiss cooperation. “Many people may have heard that Peru has more than three thousand varieties of potato, but the majority know fewer than a dozen of them. Well now they can see them in living color and experience firsthand this enormous and rich biodiversity.”

CIP will be present at Mistura through the INCOPA project, which has brought together native potato producers from Huancavelica, Junin, Apurimac, Ayacucho, Cajamarca, Puno, and Huanuco to participate in the festival. Collaborating partners in the initiative are: Capac-Peru (representing the potato production chain), the Aymara Consortium in Puno, the ‘Papas Andinas’ Initiative, and NGO’s such as Aders, FOVIDA, Vets and Agronomists Without Borders (VSF-CICDA), and CARE Peru.

Mistura expects 200 000 visitors this year. The first product that they will come across is the native potato. At the entrance to the main fairground arena will be a sample of 400 varieties, demonstrating the vast array of colors, sizes, and shapes of native potatoes. In addition, a large panel board display will tell the story of what potatoes mean to the farmers of the Andes, and it will focus attention on the need for better coordination with both regional markets and those in Lima.

In the Grand Market, located in the main showground arena, farmers from the principal Andean native potato production areas will be selling their products at special prices. The Grand Market is one of the fair’s main venues, illustrating the dynamic fusion between rural producers, urban markets, and the world of haute cuisine.

Gourmet chef and event organizer, Gaston Acurio, describes the display zone as a fitting recognition of the great work done by Peru’s small scale farmers. “It’s in the field that the great journey that ends in the kitchen begins,” he says. “That’s why there will be farmers there from all over the country offering their potatoes.”

But aside from familiarizing Lima’s consumers with the wide range of native potatoes available to them, the CIP-INCOPA representation at Mistura is part of a wider strategy pursuing more ambitious goals for the future. “One of our aims is to bring home to visitors the fact that by positioning these native potatoes in the world, we are in effect promoting the development of the country, and helping to generate new revenue for producers in the high Andes,” says Ordinola.

“We are taking advantage of the increased demand for and interest in native potatoes in Peru to better position them at the international level, generating new opportunities and niche markets. At the same time, we are consolidating coordination with our partners at the producer level,” adds Ordinola.

Mistura takes place at Exhibition Park in Lima. 80 thousand square meters will be dedicated exclusively to showcasing the very best of Peruvian cuisine, with a whole variety of foods and dishes on offer to see, smell, and try. There will be opportunities to taste native potatoes, of course, ranging from their simplist form to innovative and sophisticated presentations.

Read more about native potatos at mistura here
Video: Productores de papas nativas promueven su consumo en el Perú y el extranjero.