The plant and the production of Potatoes
Among fruits and vegetables, potatoes are almost considered a primary food, increasingly important everywhere in the world, because they provide important nutritional elements for our health, such as fibres, iron, potassium and vitamins B and C. In addition, they are fat-free and low-calorie, but taste good. The UN, aware of the great potential of potatoes in the fight against hunger and poverty, declared the 2008 the International Year of the Potato.
The expected reduction of water resources in future decades puts the production of potatoes and the distributors of potatoes in a favourable position compared to the other main food cultivations as to the production of dry material, proteins and energy, fuelling the potato trade worldwide.
The potato is grown in a very wide geographical area, as it is cultivated up to a latitude of 70° North and at more than 1,500 metres of altitude. Because of the large number of potato varieties, they can be easily grown in diverse climate conditions all over the world; the potato plant adapts well to different climates and habitats; the potato can therefore be produced and cultivated in very diverse areas and at different latitudes, changing only the period and the method of cultivation of the specific potato variety. As for the potato cultivation, optimal temperature are in the 15° and 20° range, depending on the phenological phases.
The potato is rightfully present in the fruit and vegetable world market and, apart from Italy and Europe, where more than 6 million hectares of land are under potato cultivation, also Asia (5,5 million hectares cultivated) and South America (1 million hectares cultivated) occupy an important position in the production and distribution of potatoes.
The production of potatoes and the trade of potatoes worldwide is around 300 million tonnes. The main producers and distributors of potatoes are Russia, Poland, China, Germany, the United States, India and the Netherlands. In Italy the annual production of common potatoes is around 1,500,000 tonnes, cultivated on about 6,000 hectares of land. The 45% of the entire potato production comes from three regions, Campania (22%), Emilia Romagna (12%) and Abruzzo (11%). Other important regions for this cultivation are Lazio, Veneto and Calabria.
Also the attention to the most successful varieties and the renewal in potato varieties, thanks to the introduction on the fruit and vegetable market of the organic potato, favoured producers and therefore distributors of potatoes in the cultivation of this tuber.
Many potato varieties have a PGI certification, such as the Montese potato, cultivated on the Appennino Emiliano.
The sector of potatoes worldwide has to face nowadays many different aspects, such as changes in consumers diets and a growing tendency to prefer prepared foods and a safe lifestyle.
The supermarket chains and the potato processing industry are increasing their influence, the competition rises and consumers ask for a traceable and sustainable production; another important aspect is the raise in acres of lands dedicated to other cultivations, such as those used for the production of energy. Finally there are factors related to climate change and to better communication possibilities.
The producers of potatoes constantly face the challenge to give an answer to those developments by trading new potato varieties to satisfy the customer wishes, thus resulting in the success of the trade of potatoes and of the import/export of potatoes all over the world.