The cliché of Asian agriculture is endless fields with rice. But there is literally and figuratively speaking room for the potato.
The project ‘Growing out of poverty with the potato’ is trying to make Vietnam self-sufficient in the production of potatoes. Interestingly, the project involves the whole chain from producer to consumer.
This benefits Vietnam in many ways. The revitalizing of the humble Vietnamese potato industry increases the standard of life of the producers and improves the food variety of the citizens. The continuation of the industry improves the food safety, makes Vietnam less dependent on massive potato imports and it is beneficial to the sustainability.
According to Sigrid Wertheim-Heck, director of marketing and business development of Fresh Studio, the project comprises three components: “For the production, we have introduced new varieties and sustainable production techniques with 2,500 producers. We also help with education and the organization of their businesses.
“With simple machines, we lighten the workload,” she adds. “That is necessary, because potatoes are relatively heavy, and the planting and harvesting is mainly done by women.”
On the demand side, the project pays attention to the awareness of the nutritional value of potatoes. This happens through comprehensive consumer research, followed by a large campaign in the beginning of 2017.
The third component consists of the connection between demand and supply. “We are mapping the right traders and retailers, to bring quality potatoes in the best way to the consumer,” says Wertheim-Heck.
The extensive attention on the demand is what sets this project aside from similar projects.
“We look at the agro-performance of the new varieties, but also at the market performance,” notes Wertheim-Heck.
The latter takes place in “taste labs,” rooms in which consumers – and producers – get together to taste and judge new potato varieties. This clarifies what the market potential is of certain varieties.
The production of potatoes can be done outside the rice season in Vietnam. This means producers can make money even in non-peak periods.
‘Growing out of poverty with the potato’ is a public-private collaboration between Fresh Studio, PepsiCo Vietnam, Agrico BV and the Service Agricultural Research. This consortium combines local expertise with international production advice and introduces Dutch potato varieties with commercial potential for various usages.