Potato sector development

Dutch stakeholders are developing a vision document on the sustainable transformation of the potato sector in developing countries and emerging economies. This vision is meant to serve as a guideline for the development of new programmes and investments and foster collaboration between the relevant parties.

In different geographies potatoes are being grown mostly by small-scale farmers in a low-input/low-output system. Production levels continue to be very low while the demand is growing steadily due of economic growth and urbanization. As a crop, the Potato has the potential to make a significant contribution to food systems in specific agro-ecosystems. It can have an immediate and long-term impact on poverty, employment and entrepreneurship, food insecurity, and climate change resilience, especially for vulnerable communities.

The role of the Dutch sector

The Dutch potato sector has a strong global reputation, also in Africa and Asia. However, stakeholders in the Dutch potato sector realise that a collective contribution to improving potato production systems and markets in those geographies demands a more integrated and targeted approach. It requires a joint vision and partnerships between industry, government, regulatory bodies, knowledge and educational organizations, civil society and farmers’ organizations.

NFP supporting a joint vision

In 2019, the Dutch Potato Organization (NAO) and the Food & Business Knowledge Platform (F&BKP) initiated a study to learn about recent potato sector development programmes, define leverage points for strengthening and transformation of the potato sector in LMICs. The study was also a steppingstone to explore the need for a potato platform to enhance collaboration, set an agenda for sustainable potato sector development, promote new initiatives, and improve the effectiveness of Dutch funded programmes.

It was concluded that the first step should be a vision document prepared by the NAO together with all stakeholders and supported by the Netherlands Food Partnership. The document provides insights into the major challenges and the strengths and opportunities for the Dutch potato sector for supporting the transformation of the potato sector in LMICs. Parallel, the establishment of a Potato Impact Centre of Expertise is explored to meet its ambitions, and increase its impact working in developing countries and emerging economies. Such a centre should be sector owned, thus be embedded within the ‘Dutch Potato Diamond’. The vision document is expected to be published and presented early 2021.

Since the ambitions, challenges and foreseen activities of the potato sector overlap to a large extent with the agenda of SeedNL, consultations are initiated to explore concrete linkages with SeedNL and the possibilities to position a Potato Impact Centre of Expertise within the SeedNL organization. It should be noted that the Potato Impact Centre of Expertise will have a broader scope than seed only; also other (processing) companies operating in the potato sector will be involved.

International Conference “Potato futures: impact of hybrid varieties”

In the last decade, hybrid potato breeding as a new paradigm has grown from a promising principle to a realistic approach. Breeders welcome the prospect of hybrid potato breeding as a game changing development that may help to adapt potatoes to various soils and climates and to make them resistant to pests, disease, heat and drought.

On November 30, 2020 the international conference “Potato futures: impact of hybrid varieties” took place. The programme included presentations and discussions on the current situation of hybrid potato breeding as an innovation, the social context and trends for future perspectives, the prospects and challenges from a Dutch and an international perspective. The conference was organized by Wageningen University & Research (WUR), the University of Groningen (RUG), The Rathenau Institute, the hybrid potato breeding firm Solynta and the Netherlands Food Partnership.

Key messages and full report

Header photo: Solynta / Serena Oliemeulen