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Celfia Obregon, executive director of CITE Papa:

Peru: "Industrializing potatoes would set in motion a chain of agroindustrial and technological development"

In 2018, the potato sector showed the country and the world its innovative potential. This potential must be developed in the coming years, beginning in 2019 with policies to promote industrialization, stated the executive director of the center for productive innovation and technology transfer of potatoes and other Andean crops (Cite Papa), Celfia Obregon Ramirez.

The goal, she added, is to promote productive innovation and technology transfer in the potato and native products sector.

In several countries of the region there is a tendency to increase imports of processed products from Europe and North America because there is no local industry, she added.

"Colombia, for example, has had to impose tariffs due to the great increase in European potato imports and the pressure of their producers, who suffer the consequences. This is an unwanted symptom. We are in the geographical region, and more specifically, in the country where potatoes originated, which has the largest production volume in Latin America," she said.

She added that Peru continues to import processed food, but that the sector has started to make some investment in potato plants to make pre-fried-frozen strips, which means that it is perfectly possible to migrate to a value-added industry. However, she said, it is necessary to promote industrialization on a larger scale, to cover the national demand for processed potatoes, which are mainly for restaurants, but also to produce starch.

Promoting the industrialization of potatoes on a larger scale would also motivate and encourage a metal-mechanic sector, which should be involved and associated with the potato business, she added. "We are working with an important guild of MYPES dedicated to the manufacture of machinery and equipment for transformation, so industrializing the potato would set in motion a chain of agro-industrial and technological development."

The specialist said that there is research to produce a range of new foods, such as colored flakes, purees, liquors, and non-edible products, such as cosmetics and biodegradable plastics to replace contaminants. "This would also be the best strategy to avoid the crisis due to price fluctuations or overproduction of some coastal potato varieties," she said.

Another fundamental aspect to transform the potato production chain will be to offer incentives, whether tributary or financial, to the producers and entrepreneurs who work with this input, especially with local production in the potato producing regions.

"The potato is a great product and only requires a technical strengthening to increase its productivity and competitiveness. Promoting and encouraging the use of quality seeds is a key factor. We must produce the exact same varieties, both modern and native, but from good quality seeds that are free of pathogens that severely affect productivity. The CITE Papa would give technical support to a national seed replacement campaign," she said.

Finally, she said that a permanent challenge was to continue boosting family consumption and implementing necessary measures to modify the marketing system by imposing the 50 kilos format for wholesale and other presentations to modernize the entire chain, which would generate more employment and improve quality.

"We insist on the recommendations we made at the beginning of the year, which are framed and have as a starting point the creation of a National Program for the Productive Development of the Potato," she said.


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