World Potato Congress 2022MAY 30 TO JUNE 2, 2022, IRELANDBY GEORGIA THOMAS
PROJECT MANAGER,
WA POTATOES
1,000 delegates from over 60 countries attend the 11th World Potato Congress (WPC) in Dublin.

The World Potato Congress has taken place a year late due to COVID-19, from May 30 to the June 2, 2022 in Ireland. A delegation of Australian potato industry representatives travelled to the event, led by Dr Jenny Ekman, including WA Potatoes’ Georgia Thomas, who joined the program to speak on ‘Potatoes — The Good Carb’, discussing the nutrition of potatoes and generic marketing to consumers.

The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue, officially opened the event, with delegates also hearing opening addresses from Janusz Wojciechowski, EU Commissioner for Agriculture and Dr. QU Dongyu, Director General of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, among others.

Speaking about the event, Mr Janusz Wojciechowski, European Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, said: “As a staple food, the potato carries deep social and historical significance in Ireland, as well as in my home country of Poland, and continues to nourish populations around the globe today. For this reason, the Congress provides a perfect opportunity to discuss how we can work towards achieving sustainable food security together.”

While Ireland has a long history and love affair with the potato, the potato is the third most important food crop in the world after rice and wheat in terms of human consumption. The crop is grown in more than 150 countries and the world’s largest producers of potatoes ranked in order are: China, India, Ukraine, Russia and the United States.

It is estimated that, on average, for every person in the world, 7 medium potatoes are consumed every day.

Although Ireland’s consumption ranks at 2.5 times the global average, consumption per capita is highest in Belarus, followed by Latvia. Australians eat 18kg per capita to Ireland’s 85kgs per capita.

Ireland’s potato consumption ranks at 2.5 times the global average.
GEORGIA THOMAS with (L–R) Michael Hoey, President IPF, Ireland; Dr Tom Arnold Chair, Irish 2030 Agri-Food Strategy Committee, Dublin; Lauren M Scott, Chef Strategy Officer, International Fresh Produce Association USA; Romain Cools, President/CEO WPC Inc., Belgium; Tara McCarthy Chief Executive, Bord Bia (Irish Food Board), Dublin; Cedric Porter, Managing Editor, World Potato Markets, UK. Georgia did an interview on the Ray D’Arcy show during the World Potato Congress. ABOVE: Georgia stopped into the WA Government European Office to pay a courtesy visit to the AG and discuss the World Potato Congress. As the only Australian speaker, Georgia’s presentation covered an overview of the Australian industry, results from last year’s potato health research funded by Hort Innovation and the marketing program at WA Potatoes.

The content was well-received and resulted in an invitation to speak on the national broadcaster Ray D’Arcy radio show on RTE. The segment provided a chance to further promote health facts about potatoes and included a blind tasting of DUG potato milk.

Key issues

Overall, the congress included three days of presentations and panel discussions from more than 60 international expert speakers on the key issues dominating the industry including:

Global Food Crisis

· Set against a backdrop of the ongoing war in Ukraine; warnings from the UN that current food shortages could ‘tip tens of millions of people over the edge into food insecurity’, and the fact that the World Food Programme estimates that approximately 811 million people go to bed hungry at night, Dr QU Dongyu, Director General of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, examined the role of the potato in eliminating world hunger and poverty.


The World Food Programme estimates that approx. 811 million people go to bed hungry at night.
Sustainability and development

·
The world is faced with two existential challenges by 2050: how to provide food and nutrition security for a population of close to 10 billion people, while meeting the climate target of restricting the increase in global warming to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels. Tom Arnold, the Irish Government’s Special Envoy on Food Systems, delivered a plenary presentation at the congress, examining the growing importance of the potato in contributing to farming systems, to farm household income, and to nutrition and explored how this contribution can be further enhanced in the decades to 2050, identifying the policies, research priorities and development strategies to optimise the role of the potato in meeting climate action targets.

Nutrition

· A series of expert talks and presentations included Irish Dietician Orla Walsh, Georgia Thomas from WA Potatoes in Australia, and Professor Katherine Beals from the University of Utah. The nutritional powerhouse that is the potato was examined. While the potato has often been perceived as a ‘bad carb’, in reality its nutritional credentials are staggering. A 148g serving of potato contains 45% of your daily vitamin C requirement, 18% of the potassium you need every day and just 66 calories.

Take home points

· Globally potato production is growing — growth is coming from developing countries not developed countries.
· Western countries face similar challenges in maintaining consumption of fresh potatoes and there is a will to work together on how to tackle this.
· Ireland has a significant supply chain sustainability/climate audit program called Origin Green (Bord Bia) that could be an interesting model to review.
· Grain production worldwide is reaching capacity. Potatoes will provide more nutrition for the inputs required to grow them than grains and will become a critical food source in the future.
· Quality seed potatoes and technology transfer will be needed to develop potato production in third world countries.
· The biggest issue for supply of fertilisers is geopolitical tensions around the world — not availability.
· Digitisation of agriculture supply chain will develop in the same way as fashion, luxury retail.

Potatoes in retail stores around Dublin.Australia to host the 12th World Potato Congress At the conclusion of the Dublin event, Australia was handed the flag to take-over the mantle for the 2024 World Potato Congress. The 12th congress will take place from 23–26 June 2024, Adelaide, South Australia. For more information go to potatoesaustralia.com.au

MORE INFORMATION
A copy of Georgia’s slides and radio audio is available by emailing: georgia@wapotatoes.com.au
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