x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Think big, think bold, think spud

During the oil market shock of 2008, the government of Bangladesh sought to wean its farmers off rice production with a potato scheme promoted under the slogan: "Think potato, grow potato and eat potato."

Now Gulf countries are placing their chips on the humble potato as an answer to their food security needs, as rising crude oil prices impose higher food production costs on the region.

The UAE recently reintroduced potato crops to the Western Region, with the first harvest now arriving in stores throughout the country.

"Potatoes are surprisingly more efficient in terms of food production compared with fodder crops and other vegetables," Chris Hirst, the chief executive of the government-owned support group Farmers' Services Centre, told the WAM news agency.

Farmers in the region will produce an estimated total potato harvest of 2,000 tonnes this year.

Saudi Arabia, which abandoned a 30-year self-sufficiency programme for wheat production in 2008 because of the crop's intense water demands, has also turned much of its wheat production capacity over to growing potatoes.

Jan van der Tas, the regional export manager for the Dutch company HZPC, the largest producer of seed potatoes, said the potato offered a great number of benefits to agricultural producers in desert climates.