NewsIndustryInaugural International Day of Potato — May 30, 2024

Inaugural International Day of Potato — May 30, 2024

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On March 11, the FAO officially launched the Communications Plan for the International Day of the Potato.

More than 15 years ago, the potato industry gathered together in 2008 to celebrate the United Nations (UN) International Year of Potato. At the time it pushed the crop forward in the public eye raising its profile. As the years passed, those in the potato industry felt there was more they could do to continue the year’s legacy.

“It’s important to raise the visibility of potato,” Andre Devaux, international advisor for the World Potato Congress (WPC), explains in a Zoom interview. “This is what we wanted to do, because potato, it’s grown in more than 20 million hectares around the world. It’s the third food crop at the world level behind wheat and rice. Potato can contribute to most of the challenges such as food security, climate change and a shortage of sweet water that the world is facing today.”

Devaux’s participation in the initiative to establish the day began in 2020 when he was invited to serve as an international advisor for WPC. At the time he had recently retired, previously employed at the International Potato Centre as a nominated scientist emeritus. The WPC president at the time, Romain Cools, approached Devaux with the idea to develop the concept for an international day.

Andre Devaux, international advisor for the World Potato Congress.

“We were planning the World Potato Congress in Ireland — which happened in 2022. When we started the interaction with the Food and Agriculture Organization about this initiative, we were still hoping that the International Day of Potato declaration could be announced during the World Potato Congress in Ireland,” Devaux says.

Devaux and the WPC team started working on the process to seek approval for an international day from the UN. The team contacted representatives at the UN Committee of Agriculture of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) who were open to the idea, but said the proposal needed a formal submission from a UN member country. From there the WPC reached out to several UN countries and created a committee to work on the proposal. Countries involved included Peru, Ireland, Canada, Belgium, Australia and China. The team then collected letters of support from each of the countries.

“Considering the time needed to get all the letters of support and the formal process required at FAO for the declaration of an International Day, we realized that it was impossible to get the International Day of the Potato approved in six months (for the Irish Congress),” Devaux adds.

Following the collection of support letters, the decision was made for Peru to spearhead the efforts to secure approval for the day. Given Peru’s successful management of the International Year of Potato and their observance of National Potato Day on May 30 since 2005, it was determined that Peru would lead the proposal, suggesting May 30 as the designated date for the International Day of Potato.

In July 2021, the FAO approved the proposal to declare May 30 as the International Day of the Potato. The final resolution to hold International Day of the Potato was adopted by consensus of the UN General Assembly in December 2023 with the first day to be held in 2024.

“There are around 40 countries supporting the initiative,” Devaux says. “That was required by the United Nations too. It was not enough to have Peru submitting it, they had to have the support of several countries. It’s a process that took almost two years and we were hoping to get it approved in six months.”

With the day officially approved, the promotion planning stage has begun. The WPC team has met with the FAO team who will be developing a logo, website and social media to promote the International Day of Potato. The FAO will be holding a celebration in Rome, Italy on May 30 to commemorate the inaugural International Day of Potato. Numerous countries are also working on plans to celebrate the day.

Jaap Delleman, communications committee member with the World Potato Congress.

“Peru, as the leadership will also have to assume a key role. What the World Potato Congress will do will be to promote information and also promote interaction among the partners who are going to celebrate and to share knowledge about knowledge about it,” Devaux explains.

This is also the first UN international day in celebration of a food crop. Previously the UN had only designated years in celebration of different food crops.

The hope is that through the international day in the years to come the profile of potatoes will be raised with consumers through collaboration at all levels from companies to governments to potato growers. For potato growers, they’re urged to use the day to promote potatoes and the health benefits of them.

Jaap Delleman, editor in chief of Potato World Magazine and communications committee
member with WPC, says in a Zoom interview:

“The day is a unique opportunity to show how proud you are of your product, its health benefits and the impact you are making within your communities. The more the sectors – seed, table, processing and all the producer owned and corporate organizations- draw attention to it, the more recognition the special day will get.”

The FAO and WPC encourages all levels to use the Get Involved Guide, visual identity and tag line provided by the FAO to celebrate the potato in their region of the globe and share your campaign #InternationalDayofPotato.  https://www.fao.org/international-potato-day/en

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