Most Of The World's Potatoes Come From This Country

Whether they're fried, mashed, baked, or made into chips, potatoes can be prepared in just about any way you can think of. They're often enjoyed in potato salad at summer barbecues, mashed potatoes at Thanksgiving, and even something called pommes soufflées, one of the trickiest potato dishes to execute. They've inspired a short-lived Ben & Jerry's flavor and a cocktail term, and there's even a variety protected by the Italian government.

According to Statista, russet potatoes are the ones Americans like the most, with red, white, and Yukon coming next. And we love our spuds -– not only do Americans eat 135 pounds of potatoes per year on average, but they're the second-most eaten food in the U.S., shares Maine Potatoes. But although we scarf down french fries and potato chips like nobody's business, where all these potatoes come from may be a mystery to the average consumer. And the country that produces most of the world's potatoes may not be the country you first associate with this starchy vegetable.

China dominates worldwide potato production

When it comes to all of our favorite potato dishes, we largely have China to thank. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, China completely leads the pack in potato production. The country produced a whopping 78 million tons of the vegetable in 2020, with the second-place finisher, India, producing only 51 million tons. We're not doing too shabby here in America, with about 19 million tons produced in 2020, but that still leaves us in the fifth spot after Ukraine and Russia.

Unsurprisingly, the rest of the world relies heavily on China's potatoes. According to WorldAtlas, their crop makes up about 25% of the world's supply, and demand for Chinese potatoes has only increased in the last few years. But within China's borders, potatoes are a valuable commodity as well. The average Chinese person eats about 40 kilograms of potatoes per year, Potato Pro notes, and the vegetables are how many people make a living. Half of the household income in the Mongolia and Shanxi provinces comes from selling potatoes.

But although they dominate the industry, Chinese potato farmers are not without challenges. According to Spudman, they face difficulties obtaining an adequate water supply, growing a variety of potato types, and processing their potatoes.

Potato production in Ukraine and Russia

While Chinese potato production is on an upward trajectory, other leading potato producers have faced debilitating challenges in 2022. Unsurprisingly, the Russo-Ukrainian war has had a big impact on Ukraine's ability to farm as normal. Although they won the bronze medal for third-most potatoes produced in the world, Potato News Today shares that, due to Russian invasion beginning earlier in the year, Ukraine is actually importing hundreds of thousands of tons of potatoes to keep up with demand. Spudman details a story of a Ukrainian potato farmer who fled the country to Romania in February 2022, and came back only to find that one of his seed potato farms was occupied by Russian troops.

Russia, the fourth-largest potato producer in the world, is suffering in this area too. The majority of Russian potato farms are located in peoples' backyards, since farms are not socialized by the government (via WorldAtlas). According to East Fruit, Russia actually experienced a potato shortage in 2021, leading to an increase in potato prices in the country. And because Russia was a primary exporter of potatoes to countries in the EU, their supply shortage led to higher prices in countries that relied on their production (via East Fruit).

Potatoes in the U.S.

While we may not produce the most potatoes here in America, we've not far behind on the leaderboard. According to the Agricultural Marketing Resource Center, potatoes are the leading vegetable crop in the U.S. Idaho produces more potatoes than any other state, with Washington following close behind.

So how did our love for potatoes begin? It turns out that not only did Thomas Jefferson write the Declaration of Independence, but he actually accomplished something equally (if not more) important -– popularizing french fries in America. According to Monticello, the president came back from a trip to France with a recipe for "pommes de terre frites," which were a version of the fries we know and love today. Potato Goodness explains that these goodies were served at a White House dinner, and from there, potato popularity in the U.S. took off.

Our love for french fries has never really gone away. The Agricultural Marketing Resource Center states that 63% of our potatoes are sold to french fry, potato chip, and other potato product processors. Frozen potato products, such as frozen fries and tater tots, are also the top way we use potatoes. And while we may have a former president to thank for the food's popularity in America, our potato supply wouldn't be where it is today without Chinese exports.