Potato is one of the most popular food in Nepal and its popularity is growing over the years. In almost all vegetable preparations in Nepali home kitchens as well as restaurants, potato is a must. Other potato preparations too are becoming more and more popular.
As a result, Nepal's import of potato and its products is increasing. Potato imports witnessed 33% average annual growth in potato and 88% in potato products over the last 13 years. In FY 2020/21, potato import figure was Rs 8.77 billion while that of potato products was Rs. 820 million. Failure to increase domestic production fast enough due to depletion in agricultural land is one of the reasons. That is coupled with changing consumption pattern of the people. The second reason explains the fast growth in the import of potato products that are normally categorized under fast food and even junk food. The coming days will surely increase the demand for the potato products.
But opportunities exist. Nepal produced potato, particularly of some mountainous regions, are in high demand among the restaurant goers. And Nepali potato items are included in most of the restaurant menus. Export markets for potato from such locations can be searched and investment increased in those areas for potato farming.
Potato cannot be just categorized as junk food. In many countries, it is the main food item as the grains like rice are here. That means, in Nepal too potato can be developed as food item that can substitute foodgrains. This requires the presentation to be attractive for the city-dwellers while for the people in the remote rural areas an educational drive may be required.
Against this backdrop, Government of Nepal should reorient its priority and programmes in potato sector while the private sector should focus on capitalizing on this opportunity. The private sector can invest in farming as well in processing of potato.