A tour group of Australian potato growers were among leading officials, researchers and commentators from potato industries around the world who gathered in Edinburgh in late May to attend the 8th World Potato Congress where the humble potato was described as a solution to food security.
“By 2050 the world’s population is expected to increase by a further 2 billion people causing food security concerns around the globe, but potatoes will play a crucial role in solving global food shortages over the coming half century. On another level, potatoes will be an important weapon in the battle against obesity, and a means to produce pharmaceuticals for the developing world,” said AUSVEG Manager – Special Projects, Christopher Ritchie.
AUSVEG is the National Peak Industry Body representing Australia’s 2,000 potato growers.
The potato can be easily cultivated across the globe, and has the ability to fill the food shortage gap.
“With its growing population, China will require a 50 per cent increase in food production, and discussion topics at the World Potato Congress show that the potato has the potential to accommodate the country’s increasing food requirements. China’s poor quality of seed and production conditions, coupled with a shortage of varieties and inadequate storage technology means there is an enormous export opportunity for Australia,” said Mr Ritchie.
As a rich source of Vitamin B, Vitamin C and potassium, and also positively effecting blood pressure, the potato is not only a health promoting food, but also one which can combat obesity.
Furthermore, through a process called Molecular Pharming, vaccines can be extracted from potato tubers for pharmaceutical cultivation.
“Importantly, these medicines can be administered orally which is both cheaper and safer for delivering pharmaceuticals in the third world. A hepatitis B vaccine is expressed in potato tubers, and patients can receive immunisation by eating potatoes,” said Mr Ritchie.
Potato growers from around Australia who attended the World Potato Congress were part of a Grower Tour to Belgium and the United Kingdom. The research tour was funded from the National Potato Levy with matched funds from the Federal Government.
Attendees on the tour were also hosted by the Australian Ambassador to Belgium, Luxembourg, the European Union and NATO, Dr Brendan Nelson, to discuss farming conditions in the EU and Australia.
“European potato growers have access to approximately 700 million potential customers to whom they can sell their potatoes. When compared to Australia’s population of 22 million, our domestic market is certainly challenged to supply in scales which can be competitive internationally,” said Mr Ritchie.
“Through the Growers who attended the World Potato Congress and through the Australian Potato Industry Extension Program, insights and findings from the tour will be shared with our local growers and also with the consumer,” said Mr Ritchie.