Pillar 2 - Contribution to food security

Feeding more people
around the world

Development of adapted varieties

Water scarcity is one of the threats standing in the way of producing sufficient amounts of food. The potato as a crop - and various HZPC varieties in particular - produce a great deal of healthy basic food in a short period with relatively little water. Potatoes require significantly less water than food crops like corn, wheat and rice. [Link to water footprint table] This is why governments in different countries are promoting the cultivation of potatoes.

The development of new varieties for cultivation under difficult conditions (periods of heat or drought, saline soil or poor agricultural soil) is key in our breeding strategy. We also consider knowledge sharing to further optimise the cultivation of potatoes to be an important contribution, on HZPC's part, to the growing need for healthy food and responsible cultivation.

Reaching more people

We want to reach more people around the world with our products each year. In this way we contribute to food security and to a healthy and varied diet. It is however difficult to clarify how many people can be fed by the ware potatoes produced from the seed potatoes which we supply. According to FAO statistics which refer to land area, production and consumption of potatoes, 2.5% of the global potato production is covered by production from seed potatoes supplied by HZPC. This is 3.5% of potato production in the 90 countries which we supply. We will quantify our ambition once again due to the lack of precision.

Exporting to more countries

From a structural perspective we delivered to 90 countries in 2015 with direct and indirect sales (licensed cultivation). We talk of structural sales if a country purchases seed potatoes for three consecutive years or in four years out of five. The latter is added as a supplement as there may sometimes be no seed potato sales for one particular year but there will be in subsequent years. In that case there are definitely structural sales in that country.  A total of four countries were added to the list between 2013 and 2015 and one country left. This means that the total number of countries has increased from 87 to 90.

Giving small scale farmers in Africa access to high-quality seed potatoes

Around 40% of the population of African countries close to the equator live below the poverty line. Helping small scale farmers to improve their food production is extremely important in response to the strong growth in population and demand for food.

Around 99% of local farmers use degenerated, low quality seed potatoes. These seed potatoes only provide a fifth to a third of the yield of high quality seed potatoes. The Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture from Switzerland helps small scale farmers in developing countries to achieve a better income through innovation and sustainable agriculture. This enables them to improve the living conditions of small farmers. One of their projects involves giving farmers access to high quality modern varieties of seed potato: 'Seeds2B'. The focus within this project is on potatoes as they can help to provide food security while having a low impact.  

HZPC is a partner in this project. With its knowledge and strong variety portfolio, HZPC contributes to the development of the market for small scale farmers in this tropical region. Twelve varieties are now officially approved for import to the various countries in the region. We are working hard to increase this number by carrying out various local trials. We have also found some good local partners who take care of local production and distribution of the seed potatoes. The next five years will be devoted to gaining a reputation, gaining greater access to the region, cooperation within the sector to improve distribution, storage and marketing.

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Sharing knowledge with growers

With good instructions and knowledge, growers around the world can get the best out of their crops. This prevents loss of (part of) the harvest and wastage of raw materials or environmental burdens.

Development of messaging service for growers

The majority of our seed potatoes are not supplied directly to growers. Seed potatoes are also purchased in an indirect manner. It is uncertain whether the growers have the right information at their disposal. This is why we always want to communicate with the end user (including ware potato growers). We help to increase success with the assistance of digital technology.

Entering into a dialogue with the grower about the different varieties' results is an essential part of our business operations. In the near future an app will be developed for variety specific cultivation information, which can be used at any time of day by growers around the world.

Growers' meeting about storage

Growers' meetings about storage were held for HZPC seed potato growers in the Netherlands in 2015. Some 200 growers took part. The goal is to improve storage methods, improve product quality and reduce the amount of product lost. Follow-up sessions were organised at the growers' premises so that the impact could be discussed in small groups. The growers found this to be a very positive and useful experience.

Breeding in developing countries: workshop at the Gates Foundation

The Gates Foundation, set up by Microsoft founder Bill Gates and his wife Melinda, is focused on improving healthcare worldwide and reducing extreme poverty. The encouragement of breeding locally important crops in developing countries is a key point on the agenda. Among other things the Gates Foundation organised a three day meeting in Uganda at the start of 2015 about this very topic in conjunction with the CIP (International Potato Centre).

HZPC was invited to give a lecture for a target group of local breeders from various developing countries. Producing and maintaining high quality seed potatoes and starting material is a huge problem in developing countries. The local breeders who attended were shown how a commercial breeding company measures quality, how breeding occurs technically and how this leads to quick progress, objectivity and high quality which meets consumer demand. And finally how you can measure this consumer demand.

Hans van Doorn, Programme Leader Quantitative Genetics and Biometry:

"Social structures in developing countries are hugely significant in determining whether newly developed varieties of a crop will catch on or not. The way in which a new variety is introduced is at least as important as the quality of the variety. In addition to applying modern techniques, local breeders must also conduct research into consumers and existing social relations. This will vastly increase the chances of developing a successful variety which makes an actual difference."

In 2016 HZPC will contribute to a plenary session about breeding following an invitation from the Gates Foundation in China.

Small farmers big deal

Small farmers, big deal, an initiative by Agriterra, calls upon agri-food enterprises, the Dutch government and knowledge institutions to give farmers' organisations and cooperatives in developing countries a bigger role to play in Dutch trade, aid and investment policy. HZPC is a member of the initiative group behind Small farmers big deal. We join a group of experts from the worlds of business, government, research & development and social organisations to consider the strategy and content of the campaign and to place the campaign theme on the agenda in our network.

Advice from product managers all over the world

To guarantee healthy and sustainably produced seed potatoes, HZPC controls the quality throughout the production chain, from disease control and growing instruction right down to the smallest link in the logistics operation.

Disease control
As well as implementing the tighter standards for silver scab, HZPC also focuses on quality control of the crop itself. To this end, we provide guidance to seed potato growers on how they can achieve optimal results. In addition, management of Erwinia continues to command our attention. Thanks to the introduction of a PCR test on basic seed potatoes, using fewer field generations and a number of adjustments to the growing process, the number of cases of declassifications of seed potatoes due to Erwinia has fallen sharply in recent years.

Growing instruction
To apply good agronomic knowledge and thus contribute to quality, we ensure good collaboration with and sound education for the approximately 800 HZPC-affiliated seed potato growers worldwide. We also give ware potato growers advice on proven good practice and provide intensive support during growing, on the optimal method for drying and storing potatoes after harvest for example. For this we employ an international team of some 30 field staff.