World Review

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CIP Promotes Potato Innovation in Bangladesh

In a press release issued early December, the International Potato Center (CIP), headquartered in Peru, stated that poverty affects 40 per cent of people in Bangladesh, and the country’s rate of malnutrition is among the highest in the world, with 56 per cent of preschoolers underweight. In an effort to combat these alarming numbers, CIP is launching a new program in disaster-prone southern Bangladesh to raise incomes and improve nutritional health using the potato. CIP will also include the sweet potato and other vegetables in the initiative. CIP has received a new grant of $1.5 million from USAID to work in partnership with the Asian Vegetable Research and Development Center, as well as Bangladeshi organizations, to introduce innovations in the production, marketing and consumption of potatoes, sweet potatoes, and vegetables. CIP points out that the project’s two-pronged approach will promote the commercial production of these high-value cash crops as well as homestead gardens to generate income, with a focus on subsistence production, nutrition and crop diversity among low-income agricultural households. Over the next five years, the project hopes to generate positive impacts for 100,000 families. The project will deliver improved, robust and adapted potato and sweet potato varieties, as well as training in seed system management, supply and technology. Currently, Bangladesh is largely dependent on cereals. Adding potatoes, sweet potatoes and other vegetables into the mix will diversify local diets and raise nutrition and food security, according to CIP.

Source: International Potato Center

Dutch Ring Rot Prompts Scottish Authorities to Issue Warning

Confirmation that potato ring rot has been found in ware potatoes in a region of South Holland has prompted the National Farmers’ Union of Scotland to remind all Scottish and U.K. growers to source safe and healthy seed. In a press release issued December 19, NFU Scotland said that since September, the Dutch Foods and Products Authority has found ring rot in ware potatoes at three premises in one region. One of the discoveries of ring rot occurred at the grading facility of a potato trader, the other two on farms. The NFU suspects that illegally traded farm-saved seed was involved in these cases. Additional checks are being performed in the Netherlands, where ring rot was found on several farms in 2009 and 2010. According to NFU Scotland policy manager Peter Loggie, checks on other Dutch farms have so far proven negative, and all potentially contaminated potatoes have been removed from the market, but this incident again emphasizes the importance of sourcing seed potatoes responsibly. “It is in everyone’s interests that we work hard to preserve Scotland’s good record for healthy, disease-free potatoes,” said Loggie. “We would urge all growers in the U.K. to show care and diligence when buying seed, and would recommend that growers consider buying from those who participate in the Potato Council’s Safe Haven Certification Scheme.”

Source: National Farmers’ Union of Scotland

Australian Health Guidelines Target the Potato

In early December, Australia’s National Health and Medical Research Council issued a draft report on new health guidelines stating that Australians must reduce their potato intake by 40 per cent in order to achieve a healthy diet. Additionally, the report claims that Australians must eat 140 per cent more red and orange vegetables, such as carrots and capsicums, if they want to stay healthy. The report and its guidelines relating to potatoes have roused the Australian potato industry. Grower groups and individual growers from around the country argue that the report harms the potato industry and have expressed concern that the nutritional guide appears to “blacklist” the potato. In an interview published in The Courier, Dominic Prendergast, chairman of the McCain Growers Group, said the issue is about the presentation of  potatoes, not the food itself. In the interview, Prendergast argued that it is the butter, sour cream and fat used by some consumers to prepare potatoes which might lead to health consequences. In a press release issued by the council, Warwick Anderson, chief executive of the National Health and Medical Research Council, says that the guidelines are grounded in good health outcomes, a strong evidence base and extensive consultation. According to Anderson, “[The guidelines] are based on evidence that has undergone extensive and rigorous review by some of Australia’s leading health experts. Our expert committee analysed more than 55,000 papers in the peer-reviewed scientific literature to develop the guidelines.” Consultation on the draft guidelines opened 13 December, 2011, and closes 29 February, 2012.

Sources: The Courier; Australian National Health and Medical Research Council

New Zealand Potato Exports Reach Milestone

In its December 9 newsletter, industry organization Potatoes New Zealand announced that the country’s potato exports reached a record high of $100 million in the past year. Over 93,000 metric tonnes of potatoes, including 30,000 tonnes of fresh potatoes and 62,000 tonnes of frozen products, were sold overseas in the fiscal year ending June 30, 2011. During the previous 12-month period ending June 2010, potato exports totalled $92 million. Increasing demand in the key markets of Australia, Japan and Korea, coupled with a fall in the New Zealand dollar, contributed to the record year. Another key driver is said to be the establishment of the sector’s Export Market Development Group in 2009, which has helped the industry to gain access to the Taiwanese and South Korean markets. More than 293,000 tonnes of New Zealand fresh potatoes and potato products have been exported over the last three years. Potatoes New Zealand’s business manager, Ron Gall, believes that increasing New Zealand’s overseas markets is vital to the longevity and future of the potato industry in that country. “Our export market development projects are crucial to achieving and maintaining industry growth despite considerable challenges from the tomato-potato psyllid,” said Gall. “New Zealand growers and industry partners need to work together to compete internationally to achieve real industry success.”

Source: Potatoes New Zealand Newsletter, Issue 16

Global Demand for Frozen Potato Products Increasing

According to a report issued in late November by the USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service, global demand for frozen potato products (chiefly frozen fries) for the period beginning July 2011 and ending June 2012 is forecast up five per cent from last year, due to strengthening economic growth from key importers and an expansion of fast-food restaurants, especially in smaller scale markets. According to the report, demand from Mexico and the Philippines is expected to increase. Over the past decade, total U.S. frozen fry exports to these countries have grown almost 50 per cent. Japanese frozen fry imports are largely driven by demand from fast-food chains where many fast-food outlets have now fully recovered from the earthquake, with no significant impact on the overall consumption of frozen potato products. As a result, imports are expected to continue their upward trend and expand three per cent to about 330,000 metric tons. Brazil’s imports have expanded rapidly over the past decade as its economy and fast-food industry have grown. Total imports are forecast up 10 per cent to 260,000 MT, which is more than double the level of a decade ago. Argentina has been Brazil’s primary supplier, although the European Union has been rapidly increasing shipments and is poised to take over the market. Western-style fast-food chains in China continue to drive french fry consumption. In 2010/11, imports jumped almost 70 per cent to 85,000 MT due to supply shortages. Import demand in the near future is expected to return to normal levels as domestic production expands to meet that rising demand.

Source: USDA Foreign Agricultural Service Frozen Potato Products: World Markets and Trade, November 2011

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