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Minister Sargent announces major funding for the UN International Year of the Potato 2008

Mr. Trevor Sargent T.D., Minister for Food and Horticulture at the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food today announced that, "Ireland will provide significant funding, starting with an initial payment of $150,000, to support the activities of the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), which is the lead United Nations' agency for implementation of the International Year of the Potato. The coming year (2008) has been designated as the United Nations' International Year of the Potato. Throughout the world, governments, scientists, farmers and others will focus on the potential of the potato to improve food security and nutrition and to reduce hunger and poverty. Ireland is committed to play a major part in view of the fact that the potato is the third most important food crop in the world."

Minister Sargent added, "Funding provided by Ireland will go to support FAO activities. Activities will include information generation and dissemination through conferences and symposia to review research policies and chart the future direction of the sector. This will include a major conference run by the International Potato Centre in Peru in March 2008 focusing on the application of potato science for the poor. It is hoped to encourage action throughout the developing world to focus on potato systems including crop yields, extension training on improved varieties and production systems."

Minister Sargent noted the central role the potato has played in Irish History. The failure of the crop due to potato blight in 1845 led to a famine that left 1.5 million dead and a further 1 million citizens forced to emigrate. "Irish people have a deep memory of the effects of famine on our nation" declared Minister Sargent. "Our history means we are acutely aware of the need to focus on the potato and the vital role that agriculture can play in improving nutrition and supporting food security".

Calling for a renewed emphasis on the potato, and on practical activities to increase its contribution to world food security, Minister Sargent noted that Irish Aid had already provided €520,000 to the International Potato Centre (CIP) in Peru. This funding will be used to support core research activities and to support a potato research programme run by CIP in Malawi. Further funding will be provided in subsequent years.

To mark the IYP at home, Ireland will also organise a national programme of events for 2008 with an emphasis on nutrition. This will include activities for schools including a primary school competition that aims to promote both the awareness and the growing of the potato. Schools will be provided with a growing kit and will be encouraged to monitor the growing of the potato over the period of the school term. In addition there will be a website devoted to the potato and throughout the year agricultural show and heritage centres will feature the potato.

18 October, 2007

Note for Editors

The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations is one of the largest specialised agencies of the UN and the main agency for agriculture, fisheries, forestry and rural development. FAO currently has over 180 member countries and one member Organisation, the European Community. It works towards the alleviation of hunger and poverty through promoting agricultural development, food security and raising nutritional standards.

CIP is the International Centre for the Potato (Centro International de la Papa). It is part of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) which is an informal association of research centres, which provide research to sustainable agriculture for food security in developing countries.

Date Released: 18 October 2007