Potatoes are the third most important food crop worldwide after wheat and rice. They grow from sea level up to 4,700m above, and have higher food quantity yields and water efficiency than other major crops. There are more than 4,000 varieties of native potatoes. The UK alone grows more than 80 varieties. About 100 countries worldwide grow potatoes. Potato cultivation began in South America about 8,000 years ago and spread throughout Europe, Asia and Africa beginning in the middle of the 16th century.
In terms of acreage, Africa and the Americas each plant about 10% of the world total. In terms of production, Africa produces only a third of the Americas’ output or slightly more than 5% of world tonnage. Potato yields vary in sub-Saharan Africa. The largest producers measured in ha are Nigeria, Malawi, Tanzania, Kenya and Rwanda, whereas the largest quantities are produced in South Africa, Rwanda, Nigeria, Angola and Tanzania. Since the late 1970s potato production has expanded nearly 5 fold in Africa, whereas yields have only increased slightly.
Reference to numbers/statistics are from FAOSTAT 2010 for the year 2008