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Peru only processes and exports 15% of its potatoes

According to data from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), Peru produces a large volume of potatoes per year, i.e. 4.5 million tons, unlike other products that are part of the daily diet (such as rice, cassava, and corn) or export products (such as coffee or asparagus). However, the country only processes and exports 15% of its potato production.

In May 2017, Peru became the main producer of this tuber in Latin America and the second in the Americas, after the United States. However, very little has been done to encourage national consumption and to promote the emergence of an innovative industry, that is, to add value to the potato.

According to the dean of the Faculty of Food Industries of the Agrarian University La Molina (UNALM), Luis Fernando Vargas Delgado, the processing of potatoes, as with other agricultural products in Peru, is quite incipient.

According to Vargas Delgado, one of the main problems of the national product is its irregular form - as some of the potatoes are very small, others are not spherical and have many eyes, and etc.which is detrimental to industrial production, which requires uniform and standardized products, as achieved by other countries that work the potato's genetic aspect to obtain a product that is suitable for industrial purposes. However, he said, from the nutritional and gastronomic point of view, the Peruvian potato is the best, thanks to its color, flavor, aroma, and the whole range of native potatoes.

One of the main requirements to industrialize the tuber is to have a safe supply of raw material that always has the same quality and is pre-selected, he added.

According to the executive director of the Center for Productive Innovation and Technological Transfer of Potato and Andean Crops (CITE Privado Papa), Celfia Obregon Ramirez, there are only 300 people nationwide working in the processing of potatoes. She also said that only approximately 250 thousand tons of the 4.5 million tons of potatoes that the country produces a year are processed and destined to the national restaurant sector.

In addition, only 701 tons of processed potatoes are exported to Bolivia and the United States (according to data from 2016), Obregon stated. Among this group, the dehydrated potato (of the Tunta and Moraya varieties) stands out with 239 tons. Most of it is exported to Bolivia (69%). Pre-cooked and frozen potatoes are basically aimed at migrants and Peruvian restaurants abroad; Peru exports about 207 tons of them, mainly to the USA (79%).

In recent years, the country has begun to export native fried potato chips (snacks). This is a very promising area, but, the engineer said, Peru does not export fresh potatoes due to sanitary barriers.

According to the specialist, one of the main obstacles for the industrialization of the potato is that it is not given enough importance in the national economy.

"The State does not encourage its consumption as it does with other products. Farmers do not have easy access to credit or technical support. Our businessmen do not see the great export potential that the potato has," Obregon stated. 


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