Peru’s native potato revolution


For the past half century, potato production has grown slowly in the Andean region of South America, where the potato originated and has long been a major staple food. The exception is Peru, where potato production has surged in recent years. Based on a review of official Peruvian statistics, this Innovation Brief documents trends in Peruvian potato production over the past half century, estimates production and marketing of native and improved potato varieties over the past decade, and identifies factors that have influenced these trends. The recent growth in Peru’s potato production reflects changes in both supply and demand. On the supply side, the rapid expansion of Peru’s road network, the increasing number and size of trucks, and the spread of cellphones have dramatically improved the links between highland farmers and dynamic urban markets and have reduced marketing costs. On the demand side, the image of the potato has changed from one of a “poor man’s food” to one of an under-exploited national treasure and source of pride. The Project for Potato Innovation and Competitiveness in Peru (INCOPA Project) has promoted the cultivation and use of native potatoes through public-private alliances that pursue: innovations in production and marketing, policy changes, and public awareness. This initiative appears to have stimulated demand for native and improved potatoes and it has also contributed to the supply of new production technology. Many small farmers, including those who cultivate native potatoes, have benefitted from the recent increases in potato production, sales, and farm-gate prices. The main benefits of market chain innovation and increased market demand for potatoes have accrued to early innovators characterized by higher levels of education, larger land holdings, better access to credit and input supplies and to markets for their products, and superior endowments of financial and social capital and entrepreneurial capabilities.

Douglas Horton, Katia Samanamud