Potatoes are an essential dietary staple in many regions around the world. In fact, they are the world’s fourth-most consumed food. This vegetable originates in the Andes Mountains, in the countries of Peru and Bolivia, where it was a key part of the traditional Incan People's diet. The Inca shared potatoes with Spanish explorers in the Sixteenth Century, and the tuber soon spread rapidly across Europe. European explorers then shared it with peoples they encountered while travelling through Asia. Today, it is one of the world’s most widely-grown crops, and is used for many things, including producing alcohol, animal feed, dehydrated food products (instant mashed potatoes), frozen food products (frozen French fries and ready-to-eat frozen hash browns), commercial starch, and, of course, fresh potatoes for boiling, baking, and frying.
Top Potato Growing Countries
1 China, 88.99 million metric tons of potatoes per year
The Chinese government is looking to increase national potato production, as the potato is more profitable per acre than other staple crops, such as grains, beans, and cotton. However, Chinese potatoes do not have high yields. Despite this, China grows 88.99 million metric tons of potatoes per year, accounting for 22% of the world’s potato supply. China’s domestic demand for potatoes has slowly increased over the last few decades. Only 10-15% of the crop is used for processed potato products there, such as chips and frozen french fries. But, as the middle class increases due to rapid industrialization, potato products are becoming more popular as they are attracted more to Westernized cuisine. Most Chinese potatoes are grown in the northern and western regions of the country. Farmers face some problems, including a lack of coordination between growers, and a scarcity of high quality, virus-free seeds. As production continues to increase, large farms are becoming more common, while small, family-owned farms are transitioning to other crops.
2 India, 45.34 million metric tons of potatoes per year
India’s potato production has exploded since the middle of the 20th Century, increasing by 850 percent from 1960 to 2000. Like China, India is rapidly industrializing, and because of this more middle- and upper-class people have the money to eat more diverse foods, including fast foods where potatoes are a common feature. Per capita consumption of potatoes has risen to 17 kilograms per year in India, up from 12 kilograms per year in 1990. India relies mainly on small, family farms in the western area of the country to grow its potatoes. Since this vegetable requires mild temperatures by day and cool temperatures at night to flourish, they are difficult to grow in the south. India produces 45.34 million metric tons of potatoes per year.
3 Russian Federation, 30.20 million metric tons of potatoes per year
Russia’s potato production has dropped since the fall of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s, as farms are no longer socialized under the government. In fact, only 13 percent are produced by agricultural enterprises, while 79 percent are produced by individual households, often growing crops in their backyards. These families will either consume their own crops or sell them at local farmers' markets. Due to Russia’s northerly location and cool climate, potato farms are not constrained to one area, but are spread throughout the country. However, more recently larger operations have moved west, near Moscow. These bigger farms are beginning to gain enough money to invest in high-tech equipment for planting, harvesting, and storing. Russia produces about 30.20 metric tons of potatoes per year.
4 The Ukraine, 22.26 million metric tons of potatoes per year
Ukraine produces 22.26 metric tons of potatoes per year. Historically, Ukrainians have mostly grown potatoes to use for starch and in the production of alcohol. The potato has only become a staple in the Ukrainian diet since the beginning of the 20th Century. Today, per capita consumption is 136 kilograms per year, one of the highest in the world. The Ukraine contains 30 percent of the world’s “black soil,” an exceptionally rich type of soil well suited for agriculture, and therefore potato crops should have extremely high yields there. However, the Ukraine has had many struggles with pests and crop diseases. Individual households are responsible for growing as much as 97 percent of Ukraine’s potatoes. These families then sell their crops to larger distributors.
5 The United States, 19.84 metric tons per year
The potato is the United States leading vegetable crop, accounting for 15 percent of all farm sales for vegetables. Producing 19.84 metric tons annually, over half of these potatoes are sold to processors to be made into starch, chips, animal feed, and other processed products. The United States grows a trade surplus of potatoes and exports them to such countries as Japan, Canada, and Mexico. This surplus led to a net export value of $180 million in 2009. U.S. potato farms are consolidating. In 1974, there were 51,500 farms, but in 2007 there were only 15,014, and average potato farm sizes are increasing. The northern states of Idaho and Washington produce around half of the country’s potatoes, due to their moderate-to-cool climates.
6 Germany, 9.67 million metric tons per year
The potato first arrived in Germany in the Sixteenth Century, but it was used almost exclusively for animal food until a famine in the 1770s. At that time, the German government began pushing the cheap vegetable as an excellent source of food for people as well. Although German production has been falling since the 1960s, the country remains the largest northwestern European grower. Like many other countries, Germany has been experiencing a steady consolidation of potato farms over the past few decades. However, potato growing acreage has remained relatively the same. Germany produces 9.67 million metric tons of potatoes per year.
7 Bangladesh, 8.60 million metric tons per year
Bangladesh’s potato production has grown very rapidly over the past several decades. This is surprising, because Bangladesh has one of the highest population densities in the world, at 1,101 people per square kilometer. As a result, farmland is hard to come by. However, potatoes have become an important dietary staple to its people, and is the third most important food there by tonnage. Bangladesh produces 8.60 million metric tons per year.
8 France, 6.98 million metric tons per year
France’s potato industry has remained relatively unchanged over the past few decades. Despite a slow decline in domestic consumption, the potato remains the most produced vegetable in the country. France has also experienced consolidation among farmers, and now 22 percent of growers produce 80 percent of the crop each year. About one quarter of France’s annual 6.98 million metric tons of potatoes are processed, although there have been very few new developments in processing.
9 The Netherlands 6.80 million metric tons per year
Despite a similar trend towards agricultural consolidation as seen in other European countries, the Netherlands contains smaller potato farms on average than any other country in Europe. This is due to an expanding domestic market for convenient, frozen products, and most Dutch potatoes are grown for processing in nearby facilities. The Netherlands has the world’s highest yields of the crop relative to potato field acreage, and it is also the world’s number one supplier of high-quality seed potatoes. This country was also the largest European exporter of potatoes until recently, when it was surpassed by Germany and France. The Netherlands produces 6.80 million metric tons per year.
10 Poland, 6.33 million metric tons per year
In the 1970s, Poland was the second largest producer of potatoes (behind Russia). About half of its crop was used for farm animal feed, and about a quarter used for direct consumption. However, production has declined since the fall of the Soviet Union. This is because of decreasing potato prices, and because of decreased pork production there, as hogs eat large quantities of potatoes. Still, Poland produces 6.33 million metric tons of potatoes annually.
Countries With The Highest Potato Production
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|Rank||Country||Potatoes Produced (millions of metric tons)|