May 30, 2024 #ChileDiverse

1st International Potato Day: 7 facts about this tuber, called "the food of the world".

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Consumed by more than one billion people worldwide, potatoes contribute to food security and employment for people in rural and urban areas around the world.

In Chile there are about 250 different species of potatoes.

In December 2023, the United Nations General Assembly established May 30 as International Potato Day, in order to highlight the importance of the crop in the fight against hunger and poverty, as well as to address environmental threats, especially related to climate change.

Chilean potato vendor in La Vega

This 2024, on the first commemoration, we highlight seven essential aspects of this crop:

From the Andes to the world:

Originally from the Andes, the potato was known as the "flower of the ancient Inca civilization", for whom it was a staple crop. It was later introduced in Europe in the 16th century, from where it spread to the rest of the world.

In Chile, its production is concentrated in the central-south zone, with more than 35 thousand hectares under cultivation.

One and five thousand varieties:

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), there are some 5,000 native potato varieties worldwide, most of which are found in the Andes. 

3.- Chilean guardians:

In Chile there are some 250 species, whose cultivation is led by the Los Lagos region, particularly on the Isla Grande de Chiloé, an area where it has become a heritage species. 

Currently its preservation is in the hands of women, authentic guardians of its seeds. Learn more about sustainable Chiloé here.

The potato to the rescue:

Although many of the wild species are not suitable for human consumption, they do constitute a sort of reserve of "raw material" useful for obtaining progressively superior varieties, capable of adapting to changing environmental conditions and resistant to new biotypes of pests and diseases, among others.

5.- From tuber to biodegradable plastic: 

Scientists at the Catholic University of Peru used potato starch as a sustainable alternative to traditional plastics to make packaging, food containers and medicine capsules. They are gluten-free and environmentally friendly, making it a smart option for the food industry.

Harvesting diversity, nurturing hope:

According to FAO, the choice of May 30 as International Potato Day coincides with the planting period in many producing regions, underlining its role in food security and the fight against poverty. "The objective is to highlight the importance of the potato as a fundamental food resource and income generator, especially for rural families and producers," states the UN in its 2024 report.

For Chile and the world:

In Chile, potatoes occupy the 2nd place in the basic food basket. According to the Office of Agricultural Studies and Policies (ODEPA), it is the annual crop with the largest number of farmers in our country, reaching 24,506 Agricultural Production Units (UPAs), centered on small and medium farmers, focused on supplying the domestic market.

However, in the first quarter of 2024, potato exports totaled 216.7 tons, an increase of 156% over the same period of the previous year.

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