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International Advisors

The members of the International Advisory Committee are all volunteers who have made a commitment of time, energy and expertise to assure a successful future for World Potato Congress Inc.

Mr. Xiaoping Lu

Deputy Director-General and Director of the CIP-China Centre for Asia and Pacific (CCCAP)

Mr. Lu graduated from the University of Queensland with a Master Degree of Agricultural Economic Studies in 1994, and also gained a Diploma in English Language and Law from Jiangsu Police Academy, China in 1981. He started his career at the Ministry of Agriculture (MOA) in 1983 and had held a number of positions in the Department of International Cooperation, from Project Officer, Deputy Division Director, Division Director, all the way up to Deputy Director-General of the Department. He was also invited to serve as a senior adviser for the DPRK UNDP Office from 1997 to 1998, and was appointed Counselor in the Chinese Mission to the UN Agencies for Food and Agriculture in Rome from 2003 to 2004, where he played an active role in promoting China’s agricultural connection with the international community.

Mr. Wachira Kaguongo

Mr. Kaguongo is an agricultural economist currently working with the National Potato Council of Kenya (NPCK). He joined NPCK in 2011 and has been involved in its establishment, operationalization, strategy development and resource mobilization.

Over the last twenty years Mr. Kaguoungo has worked with agricultural based organizations in impact assessment, monitoring and evaluation of research and development projects. He has conducted research and development projects on livelihood, policy, farming systems, trade-offs analysis, value chain analysis and agricultural marketing in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi, Ethiopia and Malawi. He has previously worked with KENFAP and CGIAR centres (International Potato Centre-6 years, International Livestock Research Institute-3 years and International Crop Institute for Semi-Arid Tropics-6 years). His current work has included capacity building of farmers and agricultural extension staff, project implementation, household survey, policy evaluation and formulation and lobby and advocacy. In the course of his work he has worked closely with government departments, national, regional and international partners and public and private sector actors and players.

In 1996, Mr. Kaguongo graduated from the University of Nairobi, Faculty of Agriculture-Kenya with a Master of Science in Agricultural Economics. He also holds a BSc Agriculture from the University of Nairobi, Faculty of Agriculture-Kenya.

Willie Jacobs

With his expertise and experience as agricultural economist, Willie has already proven his mettle through a change in focus on enhancing the relationship between producer and consumer and tackling potato industry challenges head-on.

He studied BSc Agricultural Economics at the University of the Free State, South Africa and obtained an MBA at North West University.

Up until his appointment as CEO of Potatoes South Africa (PSA) in January 2021, Willie worked on several contracts as an independent consultant. Most of the contracts were agricultural funding and management related.

Previously, he worked as Executive at the Land Bank of South Africa, serving corporate clients and later, as Executive Director of Obaro Financial Services, where farming activities were funded.

Santosh Kumar Tiwari

Mr. Tiwari holds a PhD in Plant Breeding Y Genetics and presently leads a highly qualified team of 7 DR’s and 150 contractual of Potato mini-tuber production at the Aeroponic facility & technical program of PepsiCo. Since June 2019, Mr. Tiwari is the Associate Director Agro Research & Development, PepsiCo India Holding Pvt Ltd, Jalandhar, Punjab where he has commercialized 6 PepsiCo Frito lay varieties for Chip grade production at PAN India level, successfully introduced 29 Potato clones of processing grade from Rheinlander USA to PepsiCo India and successfully registered 6 PepsiCo Potato varieties under “PPV & FRA” GOI, New Delhi. He has also developed new seed & chip grade potato production geographies in Assam, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh & Karnataka. As well he has developed innovative solutions & capability development in high-tech Potato long storage > 9 months, the breakthrough solution to manage reducing sugars in processing potatoes and provided technical support in establishing sustainable farming initiative “SFI” in association with Global team & leading Agri companies in India.

He has also worked as Project Manager for CIP – APART, North Eastern Geography of India. From 2015 to 2018, he was the Head Agro R&D, PepsiCo India Holding Pvt Ltd, Gurgaon, Haryana. He was also the Facility Manager, PepsiCo India Holding Pvt Ltd, Hoshiarpur, Punjab for two years and the Manager Agro R&D, PepsiCo India Holding Pvt Ltd, Patiala, Punjab & Agra, Uttar Pradesh from 2009 to 2013. Mr. Tiwari was a Research Scientist, MAHYCO Seeds, Jalna, Maharashtra from 2003 to 2009.

Blair Richardson

Blair Richardson has fulfilled the responsibilities as CEO and President of Potatoes USA for the past eight years. On behalf of Potatoes USA and the potato industry, Blair sits on several produce and potato industry boards including the Alliance for Potato Research and Education, the Potato Leadership, Education, and Advancement Foundation, the Alliance for Food and Farming, and others.

Mr. Richardson actively engages in issues of importance to the potato industry and is passionate about the need to proactively protect and defend the reputation of the potato. He is a strong proponent of aggressive advocacy and marketing tactics.

Prior to this, Blair served in similar positions with other private and industry organizations in California and has been an active farmer of both almonds and cherries while he was CEO/Partner of a large grower/packer/sales company specializing in fresh stone fruit, grapes, and citrus.

Mr. Richardson sold his last farm in California in 2021, which capped 32 years of working and/or farming in the state that began in 1989 with a ten-year career in the California cotton industry.

Ghislain Pelletier

Ghislain was born in Grand Falls, New Brunswick (NB), Canada. He was raised on a multi-generational potato farm in Drummond, in the heart of the Potato Belt in Northwest N.B. With his brother, he grew 4 hectares of potatoes within his father’s farm when he was still in high school. His passion for the potato crop as a means to create socio-economic well-being made him pursue a degree in Soil and Plant Science.

As a young Professional Agrologist, he worked for the NB Department of Agriculture as a Potato Production Specialist advising and supporting potato farmers on potato production matters and new technology transfer. Realizing soon that there was a lot to be learned in other parts of the world, he joined McCain Foods as an International Potato Agronomist with a one-year assignment in the USA Pacific Northwest, followed by a 4-year assignment in Argentina as a Senior Agronomist to evaluate and develop the sourcing of quality potatoes for the production of French fries.

Once the factory in Balcarce was up and running, he returned to New Brunswick. From the Florenceville, N.B. base, he led potato supply feasibility studies to support investments in French Fry processing factories for India, China, Colombia and Brazil.

He was appointed Vice President Agriculture for McCain Foods in 2003 with responsibility for the development of the McCain Global Potato Supply and R&D Strategy, including the evaluation and development of potato supplies in emerging markets.

Ghislain served on the Board of the Sustainable Agriculture Initiative (SAI) Platform for over 10 years and served as its President for one 2-year term. He was World Potato Congress (WPC) Inc. Director from August 2006 until June 30, 2021.

Although Ghislain retired from McCain Foods after 30 years of service, he now provides international potato agro-consultation services.

Julio Kalazich

Julio Kalazich was born in Porvenir, Province of Tierra del Fuego Island, Region of Magellan, Chile.

He is currently an academic professor at the Universidad de Los Lagos, Osorno, Chile and an international consultant in potato and general agricultural matters with more than 40 years of experience in the public sector in research, academy and administration.

He is an Agronomist Engineer from Universidad Austral de Chile, Valdivia, Chile (1977) and earned his Ph.D. in Plant Breeding and Biometry at Cornell University, N.Y., the USA in 1989. He worked as a potato breeder at the Agricultural Research Institute (INIA for its Spanish acronym), Ministry of Agriculture, Chile, between 1977 and 2018, being its program leader since 1979, and in 2019 joined Universidad de Los Lagos. During his extensive career, he headed the development and release of 13 potato varieties, some of which are the top 5 in the country, totalling 50 % of the total sales at wholesale Chilean markets and one of them as the N°1 (as by 2018). He has had extensive international experience in potatoes as well as in general agricultural research. He has been Vice-President of the Latin American Potato Association (ALAP) and a member of International Boards in South America, the US and Europe. He has collaborated with potato research institutions in the US, Italy, China, Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, Central America, International Potato Center, among others. Between 2014 to 2018, he was INIA’s National Director (an institute with more than 1000 employees). During that period, he was also President of PROCISUR and Vice President of FONTAGRO. He has published more than 100 scientific and extension publications and a similar number of publications in proceedings of national and international potato meetings.
Once the factory in Balcarce was up and running, he returned to New Brunswick. From the Florenceville, N.B. base, he led potato supply feasibility studies to support investments in French Fry processing factories for India, China, Colombia and Brazil.

He was appointed Vice President of Agriculture for McCain Foods in 2003 with responsibility for the development of the McCain Global Potato Supply and R&D Strategy, including the evaluation and development of potato supplies in emerging markets.

Ghislain served on the Board of the Sustainable Agriculture Initiative (SAI) Platform for over 10 years and served as its President for one 2-year term. He was World Potato Congress (WPC) Inc. Director from August 2006 until June 30, 2021.

Although Ghislain retired from McCain Foods after 30 years of service, he now provides international potato agro-consultation services.

Martin Acosta

Martin is the founder and CEO of KIWA, which exports premium snacks to 30 countries. KIWA was selected as Best Small-Sized (2011) and Best Medium-Sized Company in Ecuador (2017) and Top 10 Social Enterprise in LatAm by i3latam.com, in a program financed by Ashoka and Swiss Development Cooperation (2014), and he was named Social Entrepreneur of the year by Social Venture Network (2015).

Martin previously worked in private equity for Aureos and as an advisor for USAID, SNV & WBCSD, UN World Food Programme & TNT, and several SMEs. Since 2001, he has also worked as an investments advisor for wealthy families and holds a Diploma from Wharton School in Private Wealth Management.

As a college professor on Political Economy and Development from 2001 to 2005 at USFQ, and a visiting professor at 2 other universities, he published one book and several articles, and was quoted once by The Economist magazine as a football expert. He has been part of the United Nations Business Steering Committee, more lately of the UN Solutions Summit 2019, and has been part of other UN events. He has participated in several boards, 1 at the time, like Agrotropical, NESST, Analytica Securities, BASC, and Fedexpor. Martin holds an MBA from INSEAD, an MSc Politics of the World Economy from the London School of Economics, and a BA from Kalamazoo College, Magna Cum Laude.

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