Potato Production Reaches New Highs
Global potato production is at record levels, according to latest figures from the UN Food & Agriculture Organization. Data collection delays mean that the latest figures cover 2019. They show a 1.4% increase in output to 370.437 million tons, just ahead of the 2017 and 2014 world potato harvests. The area producing potatoes was up by just 1.0% to 17.341 million hectares, with average yields up 0.4% to 21.4 tons a hectare, the highest figure on record.
By Cedric Porter, World Potato Markets
World Potato Markets has used the figures to suggest levels of output in 2020. We estimate a 1.2% increase in production to 374.882 million tons, consisting of a 1.0% increase in area and a 0.2% increase in yields. Processing potato growers planted fewer potatoes in 2020 because of the closure of restaurants around the world to help control the spread of Covid-19, while there was more table potato planting in response to higher lockdown retail sales.
The latest global potato area is very similar to that in 1990, but there is a massive difference in yield and output. Thirty years ago, growers were achieving average yields of 15.1 tons/hectares, more than 40% less than in 2019. Total production in 1990 was 266.825 million tons, 39% less than in 2019. The largest global potato area ever was in 2000 when 20.090 million hectares were harvested. If that area was grown again and 2019 yields were repeated, the global crop would be 429.883 million tons.
European Production Is Up
European production was up 2.4% in 2019 to 107.265 million tons, with a 3.2% increase in yields to an average of 22.8t/ha outweighing a 0.8% drop in area to 4.696 million tons. In 2020 European growers responded to the developing Covid-19 crisis by growing more table potatoes while cutting their processing potato area back a little. World Potato Markets estimates that EU production of potatoes (including the UK) was up 4% to 56.990 million tons, with output in the five main western European growing regions up one million tons to 36.230 million tons. The 2019 figures show an 8.8% increase in production from the five as they recovered from a drought in 2018. Elsewhere, Asia remains the largest potato producer by a large margin – the 189.810 million tons it produced in 2019 was the highest for the continent ever and 1.1% higher than the 2018 figure. The average Asian yield fell by 0.8% in the year to 20.4 tons/hectare, with the area up 2.0% to 9.298 million hectares.
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