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Top official launches UN International Year of the Potato

Top official launches UN International Year of the Potato

Kicking off the International Year of the Potato, the chief of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) today celebrated the vegetable that is currently the world’s fourth largest food source.

“It is very, very important in terms of total supply,” FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf told reporters of the $350 million potato industry. “And it’s also more and more important for the developing countries because [in] the last 15 years, the production has doubled.”

Also speaking at the press briefing, Peru’s Minister of Agriculture Ismael Benavides noted that the potato originated in his country, and since then has become a global crop and is “a major source of income and activity for hundreds of thousands of families in my country.”

According to the FAO website about the Year, global potato production is on the rise, increasing 4.5 per cent annually in the past decade. While its consumption has declined in Europe, it has surged in the developing world, from less than 10 kilograms per capita in 1961-63 to nearly 22 kilograms in 2003.

The main objective of the Year is to promote the sustainable development of both potato-based systems and the potato industry, as well as to bolster producers’ and consumers’ well-being.

Among the events scheduled to commemorate the year include a FAO-backed global forum on “Potato science for the poor” to be held in Cuzco, Peru, next March.

Mr. Diouf also told reporters today that the theme of this year’s World Food Day – which occurs ever year on 16 October – is “the right to food.”

This right has become a legal one, “but how to translate that legal right into real life situations at the level of the poor rural community” is an issue that must be addressed, he said.

This issue is being compounded by other problems such as climate change and its resulting consequences on developing countries, such as higher prices on the world market and its impact on low-income countries facing food deficits.

World Food Day – marking the anniversary of the FAO’s creation in Quebec, Canada, on 16 October 1945 – “offers us an opportunity to raise awareness,” Mr. Diouf said.

In a statement earlier this week, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called for a renewed commitment to stamp out chronic hunger and make the right to food a reality for all in a world where nearly 855 million people still do not have enough to eat.

“The world has the resources, the knowledge and the tools to make the right to food a reality for all,” he said.