The power of the ‘humble spud’ to deliver increased global food security was a core theme espoused at the 11th World Potato Congress (WPC).

Some 900 potato industry delegates from 60 different countries have gathered for the event, which kicked-off at the Royal Dublin Society (RDS) yesterday (Monday, May 30).

Formal proceedings will continue through until Wednesday, after which WPC participant tours – that reflect the scope of the Irish potato sector – will take place on Thursday.  

The spud and food security

Driving these discussions is the growing recognition that potatoes can help improve food security levels, particularly in those countries across north Africa and Asia, where famine remains a continuing threat.

Liam Glennon, chair of the committee hosting the WPC, has hailed the event a game changer for Irish agriculture.

He spoke at the official opening of this week’s event, confirming the power of the potato, in every sense of the term, as a theme that has a growing resonance across all sectors of society.

Glennon was quick to confirm the scale of the challenge that has confronted Ireland’s WPC organising committee over the past four years.

“The event should have taken place 12 months ago. But the Covid-19 pandemic put paid to our 2021 plans,” he explained.

“And, of course, the outbreak of war in Ukraine added significantly to the challenges confronting the organising committee.

“However, the continued support received from the Irish Potato Federation, numerous Irish state agencies and the event sponsors galvanised the commitment required to ensure that Dublin will be the centre of the global potato sector for the coming days.

“It is very appropriate that Ireland is hosting the WPC 175 years after Black 47, the year which saw the devastating impact of the Irish potato famine reach its peak,” he added.

“Potatoes are in Ireland’s DNA.”

Delegates attending the official opening of the WPC were reminded of the role played by potato breeders in Ireland over many years.

Liam Glennon particularly highlighted the popularity of the main crop Rooster variety, both in Ireland and abroad.

“Potatoes can look forward to a very sustainable future.

“The business opportunities that can be developed for the Irish potato sector over the next few days are immense.

“But the core news coming out of Dublin this week is the fact that potatoes will play a central role in alleviating poverty and hunger in many countries around the world.”