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ROOTS AND TUBERS IN THE GLOBAL FOOD SYSTEM: A Vision Statement to the Year 2020

In 1995, TAC commissioned an Inter-Centre Review of Root and Tuber Crops Research in the CGIAR, and that group’s final report was submitted in April 1996. Among its findings, the review recommended that the Centers working on these crops prepare, in consultation with nonCGIAR members, “a comprehensive, documented text that sets out a vision for root and tuber research employing Inter-Centre collaborations and institutional partnerships….” (TAC, 1997). At International Centers’ Week 1996, representatives of CIAT, CIP, IFPRI, IPGRI, and IITA met, formed an informal committee, and established a task force to prepare such a report, with CIP and CIAT representatives acting as co-convenors. This document synthesizes the principal findings of the subsequent work.

Roots and tuber crops have myriad and complex roles to play in feeding the world in the coming decades. Far from being one sort of crop that serves one specific purpose, they will be many things to many—very many— people. By 2020, roots and tubers will be integrated into emerging markets through the efficient and environmentally sound production of a diversified range of high-quality, competitive products for food, feed, and industry. These crops’ adaptation to marginal environments, their contribution to household food security, and their great flexibility in mixed farming systems make them an important component of a targeted strategy that seeks to improve the welfare of the rural poor and to link smallholder farmers with these emerging growth markets. We estimate that by 2020 well over two billion people in Asia, Africa, and Latin America will use roots and tubers for food, feed, and income. Many of these people will be among the poorest of the poor. The CGIAR Centers, with their partners, will contribute to achieving this vision through the application of science; dissemination of information, tools, and methodologies; policy support; and, strengthening of national research and development systems.

Roots and tubers deserve particular attention because many of the developing world’s poorest and most food insecure households look to these crops as a contributing, if not the principal, source of food, nutrition, and cash income. Among other things, farm households see the value of roots and tubers in their ability to produce more edible energy per hectare per day than other commodities and in their capacity to generate yields under conditions where other crops may fail. In 1995-97, farmers in developing countries harvested 439 million metric tons of the major roots and tubers—cassava, potato, sweetpotato and yam—with an estimated annual value of more than US$41 billion, nearly one-fourth the value of the major cereals.

While the versatility of all the root and tuber crops in terms of why they are grown and how they are used will remain an enduring attraction for producers and consumers alike, we envision an overall trend toward greater specialization in end use, in the location of production, and in the types of production systems in which these crops are cultivated. From a global perspective, potato and yam will be used largely as food and primarily in fresh form. The rise in consumption of potato, though, will involve more processed products, made possible largely by more environmentally friendly varieties with the appropriate processing characteristics. Cassava, sweetpotato, and other roots and tubers will be increasingly used in processed form for food, or feed and starch-derived products. Non-food, non-feed uses will grow in volume as a result of research that enhances varietal characteristics (as through biotechnology) and lowers their cost as a source of raw material.

Authors: Gregory Scott, Rupert Best, Mark Rosegrant, Mpoko Bokanga, Gregory Scott, Rupert Best, Mark Rosegrant, Mpoko Bokanga

Contributors: Administrator, Administrator

Subjects: Nutrition


Publisher: International Potato Center (CIP)

Publication Date: 2000

Identifier: ISBN: 92-9060-203-1

Keywords: global food system, roots, Roots and tubers, tubers, vision statement 2020


Scott, G.J., R. Best, M. Rosegrant, and M. Bokanga. 2000. Roots and tubers in the global food system: A vision statement to the year 2020 (including Annex). A co-publication of the International Potato Center (CIP), Centro Internacional de Agricultura Tropical (CIAT), International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), and International Plant Genetic Resources Institute (IPGRI). Printed in Lima, Peru: International Potato Center.