Potato world
Metric units

Asia and Oceania

Production, 2007
Harvested area
8 744 049 ha
Quantity
137 226 926 t
Yield
15.69 t/ha
Source: FAOSTAT

Asia and Oceania includes the world's potato giant, China, which accounts for more than 20 percent of both the global potato-growing area and the world potato harvest. Several other Asian countries - Bangladesh, India, the Islamic Republic of Iran, Japan and Turkey - also figure in the world's top 20 potato producing countries. Some of the world's best yields are recorded in New Zealand - on average, around 42 tonnes per hectare.

1. China

马铃薯

Production, 2007
Harvested area
5 000 000 ha
Quantity
72 000 000 t
Yield
14.4 t/ha
Source: FAOSTAT

China is the world's biggest potato producer, with output in 2007 of 72 million tonnes (or more than 20 percent of the global harvest). It is also an increasingly important global supplier, with potato exports totalling some 440 000 tonnes (raw equivalent) in 2005.

The tuber probably reached coastal China aboard ships from Europe during the 17th century and was introduced to central China by Russian traders around the same time. Production has increased nearly fivefold since 1961. Although Chinese potato output ranks behind that of maize and sweet potato, more than 80 percent of the maize and 40 percent of the sweet potato are used as animal feed. Most of the potatoes go directly to human consumption - each year, the Chinese consume 40 kg per head.

The potato is important to China not only as a staple food, but also as a source of income, especially for farmers in mountainous areas with poor soils. In northern China's Inner Mongolia and Shanxi provinces, sales of potato account for more than half of rural household earnings.

2. India

आलू, potato

Production, 2007
Harvested area
1 600 000 ha
Quantity
26 280 000 t
Yield
16.4 t/ha
Source: FAOSTAT

The potato reached India in the late 16th and early 17th centuries, most likely aboard ships from Portugal. Today, India ranks as the world's third largest potato producing nation, with production in 2007 of around 26 million tonnes.

Between 1960 and 2000, potato production increased by almost 850 percent, partly in response to growing demand from higher-income urban populations. Since 1990, per capita consumption has risen from around 12 kg to 17 kg a year.

In India, the aloo is not primarily a rural staple but a cash crop that provides significant income for farmers: the value of the 2005 harvest is estimated at $3.6 billion and exports totalled about 80 000 tonnes that year. Potato varieties suited to the country's climate - hot summers and short winters - are grown on the Indo-Gangetic plain during the short winter days from October to March, while some year-round production takes place in relatively high altitude areas in the south.

3. Islamic Republic of Iran

سيب‌ زميني

Production, 2007
Harvested area
210 000 ha
Quantity
5 240 000 t
Yield
24.9 t/ha
Source: FAOSTAT

A British ambassador, Sir John Malcolm, is said to have introduced the potato to the royal court of Persia during the early 1800s. For a time, the tuber was known as "Malcolm's plum", but it's called the "earth apple" by today's Iranians.

Iran is the world's No. 12 potato producer and the third biggest in Asia, after China and India. Since 1961, production has increased more than 15 times over. In 2007, the country's farmers achieved an all-time record harvest of 5.2 million tonnes, with per hectare yields averaging 25 tonnes. The potato is one of Iran's leading agricultural exports, with shipments in 2005 totalling around 166 000 tonnes.

Potatoes are grown mostly under irrigation around the southern shore of the Caspian Sea, in the Zagros Mountains, and on the southern lowlands, alternated with wheat, vegetables, sugar beets and fallow in three- or four year rotations. Traditional varieties prized for their culinary qualities continue to be grown in the mountainous north.

4. Bangladesh

আলু

Production, 2007
Harvested area
310 000 ha
Quantity
4 300 000 t
Yield
13.8 t/ha
Source: FAOSTAT

A British governor promoted potato cultivation in Bengal in the 1770s, and within a century it was a well established garden vegetable. However, large scale production was held back by the lack of suitable varieties: European cultivars were not adapted the hot Bengali plains.

Today, the potato has become a highly successful October-March winter crop in Bangladesh, with a production value - estimated at $560 million in 2005 - second only to that of paddy rice. In 2007, Bangladeshi farmers harvested more than 4.3 million tonnes of potatoes (12 times more than in 1961), which placed the country at No. 14 among the world's potato producers and No. 4 in Asia.

The potato is usually grown for cash sale, and much of national production is concentrated near the capital, Dhaka, the country's largest urban market. Annual consumption has been growing briskly, from around 7 kg per capita in 1990 to more than 24 kg in 2006.

5. Turkey

patates

Production, 2007
Harvested area
158 500 ha
Quantity
4 280 700 t
Yield
27 t/ha
Source: FAOSTAT

In some areas of Anatolia, local potato varieties are still called ruskartoe, commemorating the tuber's introduction from the Russian Caucasus in the early 1800s. Potato cultivation has been officially encouraged in Turkey since 1872, and today the country is the Middle East's biggest producer after Iran, with output in 2007 of almost 4.3 million tonnes.

Second only to tomatoes as a horticultural crop, the patates is grown on an estimated 158 000 ha of land across the country. The Anatolian central plateau - with its hot, dry summers and cold winters - is the most important producing region, accounting for nearly half of the national potato area, while intensive cultivation is conducted on the Aegean and Mediterranean coasts. Yields in 2007 were a high 27 tonnes per hectare.

Turkey's current production hovers at 1990 levels, and is well below the 2000 record harvest of 5.4 million tonnes. Annual per capita potato consumption is contracting, from 63 kg in 1990 to a less than 50kg in 2006.

6. Japan

馬鈴薯

Production, 2007
Harvested area
83 000 ha
Quantity
2 650 000 t
Yield
31.9 t/ha
Source: FAOSTAT

The potato was probably brought to Japan by Dutch traders who established an enclave in Nagasaki early in the 17th century. But widespread cultivation of the tuber did not begin until late in the 19th century, when it proved well suited to the cool summers of the northern island of Hokkaido.

Today, Hokkaido's potato farmers produce yields of more than 41 tonnes per hectare and account for about two-thirds of the national harvest, which totalled some 2.6 million tonnes in 2007. While that placed the country at No. 6 among Asia's potato producers, it was also one of the smallest harvests recorded since the 1960s, when Japan was producing up to 4 million tonnes a year.

Along with the steady decline in production over recent decades, there has been a shift from home preparation to consumption of processed potato products such as chips and french fries. To meet domestic demand, Japan imports each year some 650 000 tonnes of potatoes, mainly from China.

7. Pakistan

آلو

Production, 2007
Harvested area
131 900 ha
Quantity
2 622 300 t
Yield
19.8 t/ha
Source: FAOSTAT

Although potato was grown on the Indian subcontinent from the late 16th or early 17th centuries, at Pakistan's foundation in 1947 cultivation was restricted to a few thousand hectares and total annual output was less than 30 000 tonnes.

In the decades since independence, the aalu has become the country's fastest growing staple food crop. Thanks to strong gains in cultivated area and average yields - both made possible mainly by irrigation - output rose between 1995 and 2007 from one million to a record of more than 2.6 million tonnes. The lion's share of potato production comes from the Punjab, where spring and autumn crops account for 85 percent of the national harvest.

Apart from some subsistence growers in the north, most Pakistani farmers produce for urban markets rather than household consumption, and the potato has become a significant source of rural income (worth some $300 million in 2005). At present, annual intake is around 11 kg per capita.

8. Kazakhstan

Картоп

Production, 2007
Harvested area
154 400 ha
Quantity
2 340 000 t
Yield
15.1 t/ha
Source: FAOSTAT

At the break-up of the Soviet Union in 1991, Kazakhstan was producing annually around 2.5 million tonnes of potatoes from an area of 240 000 ha. In the turmoil of the following decade, there was a steady decline in the size of the potato growing area and in potato output, which dropped to 1.2 million tonnes in 1998.

Since then, production has rebounded, thanks largely to rapid gains in average per hectare yields, which rose from 7.6 tonnes in 1998 to more than 15 tonnes in 2007. In that year, Kazakh potato farmers harvested some 2.3 million tonnes of tubers from 155 000 ha of land.

Today, the potato is Kazakhstan's most important food crop after wheat, with average per capita consumption of a high 90 kg a year. While most potatoes are consumed fresh or used as fodder, recent years have seen strong growth in exports of processed potato products, which rose from 1 000 tonnes in 2000 to more than 15 000 tonnes in 2005.

9. Nepal

Production, 2007
Harvested area
153 534 ha
Quantity
1 943 246 t
Yield
12.6 t/ha
Source: FAOSTAT

The first record of potatoes in Nepal dates back to 1793. Although it remained a relatively minor crop for the next 180 years, some researchers say that its early introduction to the high altitude Himalayas helped fuel the rise of Buddhist civilization in northern Nepal.

In the 1970s, a national potato development programme, focused on improving the quality of seed potato, stimulated a rapid expansion of both cultivated area and production, which increased from 300 000 tonnes in 1975 to a record 1.97 million tonnes in 2006. The potato is now Nepal's second staple food crop, after rice, and per capita consumption has almost doubled since 1990 to 51 kg a year.

Potatoes are widely grown in Nepal, at below 100 m altitude in the south to as high as 4 000 m in the northern mountains. The tuber is particularly favoured by farmers in high hills areas (roughly 1 800 to 3 000 m): it is more productive than rice and maize and the cool climate is well suited to production of seed tubers for sale at lower altitudes.

10. Democratic People's Republic of Korea

감자

Production, 2007
Harvested area
190 000 ha
Quantity
1 900 000 t
Yield
10 t/ha
Source: FAOSTAT

The potato was introduced to the Korean peninsula - probably from China - during the early 1800s. It became a staple crop during the Japanese occupation from 1910 to 1945, replacing rice exported to Japan, and saved many farm families from starvation during the Second World War.

The potato remains an essential food security crop in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. In 2007, it produced an estimated 1.9 million tonnes, placing the country among Asia's top 10 producers. The area under potato has grown from 36 000 ha to almost 200 000 ha since 1960, while potato output has increased fourfold over the past decade.

Farmers' average yields, however, have barely improved over 1960 levels, mainly owing to shortages of agricultural inputs and the lack of virus-free seed potato. To boost production, the government is promoting a "potato farming revolution" - innovations include a low-input potato-rice cropping system that produces, in a relatively short growing season, 11 tonnes of potatoes and rice.

11. Kyrgyzstan

картофель, картуршкур

Production, 2007
Harvested area
86 000 ha
Quantity
1 373 900 t
Yield
16 t/ha
Source: FAOSTAT

Lying at the heart of Asia, along the ancient Silk Road, Kyrgyzstan was introduced to the potato - and its Russian name, kartofel - during the 1800s. Although the mountainous country is suitable mainly for grazing livestock, the new crop flourished in the temperate climate of the northern foothills, and today Kyrgyzstanis praise the potato as their country's "second bread".

Since 1992, potato production has increased almost fourfold, from 360 000 tonnes to a record 1.36 million tonnes in 2007. By head of population, Kyrgyzstan now ranks as the world's 10th largest potato producer, while its annual consumption of potato - more than 150 kg per capita - is second only to that of Belarus.

Potato growing in Kyrgyzstan is held back by shortages of virus-free seed tubers, improved varieties and agricultural inputs. But the country's rapidly expanding production has attracted investors - recently announced joint ventures with companies from India and the Republic of Korea are building potato processing plants that aim at producing 40 000 tonnes of starch and bio-ethanol a year.

12. Azerbaijan

kartoşka, kartof, yeralması

Production, 2007
Harvested area
67 100 ha
Quantity
1 178 200 t
Yield
17.55 t/ha
Source: FAOSTAT

Azerbaijan became part of the Russian empire in 1828 and was a Soviet republic from 1920 to 1990. During that time, rice - which had been traditionally cultivated in the foothills of the Caucasus mountains - gave way to potato (known as kartoşka) in both agriculture and Azerbaijani cuisine.

Today, Azerbaijan continues to expand its potato production. Since 1992, the area under potato has tripled, while yields have more than doubled. As a result, the national harvest grew from 156 000 tonnes at the beginning of the 1990s to a record 1.17 million tonnes in 2007, only slightly less than wheat production (rice output in 2006 was just 5 000 tonnes).

Potato yields average around 17.5 tonnes per hectare, but improved management techniques recently introduced by experts from Israel have boosted output to more than 50 t/ha in some areas. Azerbaijanis currently consume around 82 kg of potatoes per capita per year and, to meet demand, the country recently increased imports of potatoes from Russia.

13. Australia

potato

Production, 2007
Harvested area
32 000 ha
Quantity
1 150 000 t
Yield
35.9 t/ha
Source: FAOSTAT

Potatoes were aboard the ship of explorer James Cook when he claimed eastern Australia for Britain in 1770, and their cultivation began along with colonization eight years later. Today, "spuds" are grown across the continent, from the temperate southern state of Tasmania to tropical North Queensland.

Australian potato production more than doubled between 1960 and 1990 - from 450 000 tonnes to 1.2 million - but since then output has stabilized at an annual average of about 1.3 million tonnes. Potato tubers are the country's most important horticultural crop, accounting for more than 40 percent of total vegetable output. More than 60 percent is processed into frozen potato products and crisps, while around 37 percent is fresh marketed.

Competition from foods such as pasta and rice has made recent inroads into the fresh potato market, and FAO estimates that between 1995 and 2005 annual per capita consumption of potatoes slipped from 55 kg to 53 kg.

14. Indonesia

kentang

Production, 2007
Harvested area
60 000 ha
Quantity
1 014 200 t
Yield
16.9 t/ha
Source: FAOSTAT

The Dutch East India Company brought potatoes to West Java around 1795, and within 15 years the kentang holanda (or "Dutch tuber") was being grown by Batak farmers in the highlands of northern Sumatra.

Today, Indonesia is the biggest potato producer in southeast Asia. Between 1960 and the mid-1990s, the country's potato output grew at a rate of almost nine percent per year, and since 2003 annual production has averaged more than one million tonnes. Potato is cultivated throughout the archipelago, in highlands areas of between 800 and 1 800 m, mainly by small scale farmers.

Potato growers are largely dependent on seed tubers imported from Germany and the Netherlands. While some potatoes are grown for export, mainly in northern Sumatra, the bulk of Indonesia's potato harvest is destined for fresh consumption in large urban areas. Indonesia imported some 32 000 tons of potatoes in 2006 mainly for processing into food products.

24. New Zealand

potato, taewa, rīwai

Production, 2007
Harvested area
12 000 ha
Quantity
505 000 t
Yield
42 t/ha
Source: FAOSTAT

Decades before British colonization began in the mid-1800s, explorers had introduced potato to New Zealand's Maori people. The new crop, dubbed taewa, proved well adapted to the cool New Zealand climate, and today red- and blue-skinned "Māori potatoes" are recognized local varieties.

In 2007, New Zealand produced around half a million tonnes of potatoes from an area of just 12 000 ha, with average yields of a high 42 tonnes. Commercial yields exceeding 70 tonnes are not uncommon. The potato is the country's most popular vegetable - fresh market potatoes are harvested all year round and per capita consumption is estimated at about 66 kg a year.

The past decade has seen strong growth in the processing sector (300 000 tonnes were processed into french fries and crisps in 2006) and in fresh and frozen potato exports, which totalled more than 90 000 tonnes. The retail and export value of New Zealand's potatoes is put at some US$ 300 million a year.

Sources: CIP World Potato Atlas; FAOSTAT; World Potato Congress; AusVeg; Horticulture New Zealand