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The Inaugural International Day of Potato (IDP) in Rome was celebrated on May 30th.

 

Opening Celebrations of International Day of Potato were held at a local farmers’ market.

On the 30th of May, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) celebrated the first International Day of Potato in its headquarters in Rome. The initiative to promote the International Day of Potato (IDP) was started in 2021 by the World Potato Congress Inc. (WPC) along with other key partners. Peru, Belgium, Ireland, China, 

Canada and Australia were the first nations to express their official support to FAO. In late December 2023, the UN organization officially adopted the resolution of the IDP and set the date of May 30 for its annual celebration.  

It was celebrated not only at FAO headquarters in Rome, but in many countries around the world, including Asia, Africa, Latin America, North America, and Europe. “The potato has been the most important lifesaving, staple food and nutritious vegetable in the world,” FAO Director-General QU Dongyu said in a video message to highlight the importance of potato worldwide. This celebration gives extra attention to the potato, under the theme of “Harvesting diversity, feeding hope.”  

Peruvian Farmers showcasing the many different varieties

Italian’s sharing their beloved potato-based Gnocchi.

Sharing of vision 

In Rome, the celebration day coordinated by FAO, started at a farmers’ market, where the focus was on diversity in the potato varieties and various production systems. At this event, Sonia Mucci, Head of Administration, Fondazione Campagna Amica, as well as World Farmers Market Coalition and Beth Crawford, the Director of the Office of Strategy, Program and Budget, FAO made introductory remarks. Their main topic was the focus on producers who are contributing to potato diversity worldwide. Beth Crawford emphasized that conservation and diversity are not only a responsibility of the growers but of the whole potato value chain. Thursday is Gnocchi Day in Italy, and the famous Italian potato dish was put into the spotlight. 

Knowledge transfer 

In the afternoon, knowledge transfer was the focus of a round table coordinated by Peru for an in-depth discussion on the contribution of the potato value chain to global food security. Here, potato specialists, André Devaux, Director on the World Potato Congress Board, Sean Owens of the Irish company IPM Potato Group, Erika den Daas of Dutch breeding company Meijer Potato, Jorge Anrade Piedra of the CIP, Nicola Pizzoli, of the Italian company Pizzoli and Aldo Riozzoglio of Ortofruticola Patfruit shared their vision.  

Potato Specialists from around the world gathered in Rome to share information on the Potato, on this the first International Day of Potato.

WPC Director Dr. André Devaux was one of those invited to the Opening

WPC Director, Dr. André Devaux stated that the potato is a resilient crop due to its adaptability to different agroecological systems and its relatively short growing cycle.  

“Potatoes can be found growing at 4000-meter altitude in the Andes and at sea level in North Africa. Potato is cultivated on 20 million ha and is consumed as a staple food by around 1.3 billion people worldwide. It plays a dual role contributing to the economy of family farming and to food security. But relatively low yields are observed in many countries of the South where potato is an important food crop. Under these conditions, the improvement and selection of productive potato varieties tolerant/resistant to pests and diseases (especially late blight) is a key research activity. With the challenge of climate change, tolerance to drought is also an important trait to be considered in breeding. There are also biofortification studies implemented by the International Potato Center (CIP) to integrate nutritional characteristics such as higher content of iron in response to the high rates of anemia in many countries in the South. High levels of vitamin C in potatoes facilitate the absorption of iron by populations who consume it as a staple food. The robustness of varieties contributes to the performance of the crop both in quantity and in quality.” 

André emphasized that the selection of improved varieties needs to be complemented with the improvement of seed production and distribution systems to promote access to high-quality seeds of these varieties. There are rapid multiplication technologies that can improve the seed production process. Regarding crop management, the development of disease and insect control options for more rational use of pesticides is crucial especially to control late blight, a fungal disease, that is prevalent around the world. There are decision support tools for more efficient use of fungicides that can be combined with water and soil fertility management and can be used on cell phones to facilitate their use by farmers.  

It is also important to improve post-harvest management with storage technologies for better quality and reduction of food losses. Although potato remains a staple food in rural areas in developing countries, it is also progressively becoming a cash crop for farmers in Asia, Africa, and LAC. Research to improve the efficiency of potato value chains and foster strengthened coordination among its players to improve access to inputs and enhance the access of small-scale farmers to new market opportunities linked to processed potatoes whose demand is increasing in the South. Better efficiency of the potato value chain should also contribute to generating attractive opportunities for the young population.  

The dichotomy between research activities in developed versus developing countries highlights the many opportunities for more exchange, knowledge sharing, and collaboration through public and private partnership that can be supported by FAO, the WPC and CIP. 

To see the whole knowledge round table go to: https://www.fao.org/webcast/home/en/item/6543/icode/ 

Official kick-off 

Director General of FAO, Qu Dongyu

Following on this knowledge event was the official kick-off of the day with the director general Qu Dongyu taking the floor first, followed by Paula Naráez of the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations (ECOSOC). This was followed by two keynote speeches by Angel Manuel Manero Campos, Minister of Agrarian Development and Irrigation, of the Republic of Peru, followed by Bruno Archi, Ambassador, Permanent Representative of the Republic of Italy to FAO. Through a live video connection with Peru, Simon Heck, Director-General of International Potato Center (CIP) and Vania Azevedo, Leader of the Program Biodiversity for the Future and Genebank Head of CIP contributed to this inaugural session. 

Panel discussion 

Following this inaugural session, a panel including Peruvian potato growers, researchers and other players from the potato value chain shared in a time of discussion. 

Panel Discussion led by Makiko Taguchi, FAO

The panel provided an opportunity for the participants to focus on the importance of the potato worldwide. We learned from the Peruvian farmers Martha Mamani Condori, farmer/member of AGUAPAN Peru and Victor Anco Chirinos, farmer/member of AGUAPAN that is very important to maintain the origins of the ancient potato in the highlands of the Andes. Not only for this generation, but also for generations to come. The worldwide focused panel included Professor Jin Liping of the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Science; Gustavo Mostajo Ocola, Agricultural Expert, Embassy of Peru to Italy; Sara Savastano, Research and Impact Assessment Division of IFAD. Makiko Taguchi, Agricultural Officer, Plant Production and Protection Division, FAO, was the moderator of this high-level ceremony, which was concluded by Máximo Torero, Chief Economist of FAO. 

To see the complete high-level event, go to:  https://www.fao.org/webcast/home/en/item/6542/icode/ 

 

Celebrate the potato 365 days of the year  

The WPC is grateful for the open transparency of the communications strategist and team at the FAO who have worked tirelessly on promoting the International Day of Potato and coordinating the events around the day in Rome.  We also wish to thank our Sustaining Partners and many organizations around the world who provided examples to the WPC of their plans for celebration. With over 600 attendees online and almost 200 in person, along with the global celebrations, we will continue to celebrate the potato and its benefits 365 days of the year. 

The World Potato Congress Inc. initiatives are funded in part by the following Sustaining Partners.  For more information on how your company can benefit from partnership, please inquire at info@potatocongress.org or visit our website at https://potatocongress.org/sustaining-partners/benefits/

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