The International Potato Center hosted the 10th World Potato Congress (WPC) – XXVIII Latin American Potato Association Congress (ALAP) in Cuzco, Peru, from 27 to 31 May 2018.

The World Potato Congress (WPC) is held every three years and this was the first one to be held in South America, in the Andes of Peru, the home of potatoes.  The theme was: Biodiversity, food security & business – Back to the beginning to plan for the future.

Approximately 800 delegates from the potato community around the world, with 23 from South Africa attended the event.  It was indeed an opportunity to expand and exchange knowledge and to network, that was utilised inside and outside  the conference rooms by growers, researchers, entrepreneurs, policy makers and role-players from more than 50 countries.

The mission of the World Potato Congress Inc. (WPC Inc.) is to create a value chain network to lead sustainable growth and development of the potato to meet increased global use and demand.

Peru has experienced increased potato production as well as increased challenges in the last few years.  Key challenges identified are:

  • High food losses
  • Lack of appropriate value chain infrastructure
  • Lack of a proper supply of certified seed
  • Tariff and non-tariff barriers
  • Asymmetry of information
  • Lack of proper marketing institutions
  • Pests and diseases

Most losses are experienced at farm level.

On the input side, the availability of certified seed potatoes is crucial with sufficient access to fertiliser, irrigation, crop production requirements and machinery.  The control of pests and diseases also plays a big role.  Farmers take advantage of the rich biodiversity and try to increase efficiencies by making use of user-friendly guides developed to assist the farmers.

Plenary sessions at the congress included themes such as the potato global approach, climate change, varietal development and biotechnology, Peru and its biodiversity and summary and strategies for moving the potato forward.

Technical sessions focussed on climate change and potato agri-food systems, trends in potato consumption and markets, potato variety development and biotechnology, potato pests and diseases, potato crop management, post-harvest and processing technology, potato biodiversity and its use in breeding, nutrition and health.

Workshops were held on the late blight global challenge, In-situ conservation challenges, value chain for small farmers and culinary innovations.

The International Potato Center (CIP) also launched a campaign, namely Imagine a world without potatoes.

In 2016, while attending the African Potato Association Conference in Addis Ababa, the WPC Inc. discussed how it could assist in strengthening the potato value chain in East Africa and other developing nations. Following round table discussions, the World Potato Congress committed to developing a tool box which would address the needs of individuals and communities through the potato value chain.

Romain Cools, president of the WPC asked the question: “What do you do when you have no money and only enthusiasm?”  This is where the tool box comes in handy by developing public/private partnerships.  The tool box is simple but must be efficient.

The tool box for potato projects in the developing world has six sides, namely:

  1. Collaboration between local individuals or groups with partners who want to carry out their corporate social responsibility.
  2. Provision of quality planting material.
  3. Farm management and crop production technologies.
  4. Sustainable production and storage of potatoes.
  5. Marketing.
  6. Creating added value through packaging and processing.

Peru as a country with its friendly, colourful and disciplined population and immense biodiversity impressed everyone.

In conclusion, it was clear that quality planting material is required to feed the world’s growing population and that farmers will be making decisions in increasing uncertainty due to climate change and that inter-institutional collaboration is key to prepare for the future!

I cannot imagine a world without potatoes; therefore Potato Certification Service is committed to play its part in providing quality planting material to the potato industry in South Africa ensuring that our growing population can enjoy potatoes in all forms! – Sanette Thiart, Potato Certification Service