The United Nations FAO reports that the world production of potatoes in 2010 was about 324 million tonnes. Just over two thirds of the global production is eaten directly by humans with the rest being fed to animals or used to produce starch. This means that the annual diet of an average global citizen in the first decade of the 21st century included about 33 kg (or 73 lb) of potato. However, the local importance of potato is extremely variable and rapidly changing. It remains an essential crop in Europe (especially eastern and central Europe), where per capita production is still the highest in the world, but the most rapid expansion over the past few decades has occurred in southern and eastern Asia. China is now the world’s largest potato-producing country, and nearly a third of the world’s potatoes are harvested in China and India. The geographic shift of potato production has been away from wealthier countries toward lower-income areas of the world, although the degree of this trend is ambiguous.
In 2008, several international organizations highlighted the potato’s role in world food production, in the face of developing economic problems. They cited its potential derived from its status as a cheap and plentiful crop that grows in a wide variety of climates and locales. Due to perishability, only about 5% of the world’s potato crop is traded internationally; its minimal presence in world financial markets contributed to its stable pricing during the 2007–2008 world food price crisis Thus, the United Nations officially declared 2008 as the International Year of the Potato to raise its profile in developing nations, calling the crop a “hidden treasure”. This followed the International Rice Year in 2004.