On 1 January, Romain Cools, Belgapom's General Secretary
, was appointed President of the World Potato Congress (WPC). He succeeds David Thompson. Romain, who has been a member of the WPC Board of Directors since 2003, has been Vice-President for three years. After three Canadians, he is the Organisation's first European President. Romain: "The WPC Board of Directors is made up, exclusively, of volunteers. This was also the case with my predecessor, who, last year, proposed I succeed him. My chairmanship and the appointment of the new General Manager, Brian Douglas, represent a rejuvenation in the organisation."
Romain: "The WPC is an NGO. We organise a congress every three years. Our goal is to become the most important global network organisation within the potato sector. We want to bring governments, businesses, the teaching sector and other organisations into contact with one another and, so, strengthen the sector worldwide. In May 2018, the next Congress will be held in Cuzco, Peru. This Congress must be excellent and has absolute priority. Our enthusiasm and the fact that we can bring people together make up for our organisation's limited resources. It is also of the utmost importance that our organisation is utterly transparent in its business operations. This is crucial for our credibility."
With Romain at the helm, it is all about change in the organisation. Romain: "We decided at a recently-held strategic exercise to evolve from a tri-annual Congress to a bi-annual one from 2021. In this way, we can visit more countries on more continents. We are also going to focus more on communication via the modern social media in order to strengthen our network. With webinars, we can introduce people all over the world to innovations in the potato sector."
"After grains and rice, potatoes take third place on the world stage. Potato farming is also the fastest growing sector. This has to do with the sustainability principle. Potatoes use less land than grains and less water than, for instance, rice. This is not going unnoticed. For example, in 2015, the Chinese government decided to go full-out into potato cultivation. In 2015, the World Potato Congress was also held in China. This has led to the creation of a knowledge centre for potato cultivation in Asia. We hope the event in Cuzco, themed "Biodiversity, Food security and Business", will also stimulate new initiatives in South America and Africa. This will also benefit the European potato sector."