The first known cultivation of potatoes occurred around the 2nd century BC. The Inca tribe in Peru were known to take advantage of the high-altitude climate of the Andes Mountains to create the first known potato industry. At the time, the potato was considered a cure-all product. People used them to heal broken bones, cure coughs, and more. They were even used to measure time.
More than 4,000 different varieties of potatoes can be found in the Andes Mountains region. It wouldn’t be until the 17th century when the modern potato would make its way into North America. The first potatoes were planted in the northeast, but by 1937, the Idaho potato industry was poised to take over the market.
For more than 60 years, the Idaho potato industry has led the United States in total potato production, even though potatoes are considered a major agricultural product in more than 30 states.
Interesting Idaho Potato Industry Statistics
#1. The Idaho potato industry grows about 13 billion pounds of potatoes every year. Most of the potatoes grown are either Burbanks or Russets, but about 5% of the industry’s production each year includes potatoes of different colors. (Idaho Potato Commission)
#2. The Idaho potato industry shipped an estimated 60 million pounds of yellow-type potatoes in 2012 to grocery stores in the United States and around the world. (Idaho Potato Commission)
#3. The potato area harvested in the State of Idaho in 2016 involved a total of 324,000 acres. (U.S. Department of Agriculture)
#4. In 2016, the total levels of potato production in the State of Idaho were 139 million cwt (hundredweight), which equates to a total yield of 430 cwt per acre for the industry. (U.S. Department of Agriculture)
#5. There were 2,000 additional acres of potatoes harvested by the Idaho potato industry in 2016 compared to 2015 figures. That resulted in an additional 9 million cwt in the total production and a 25 cwt per acre increase in the average yield. (U.S. Department of Agriculture)
#6. Idaho has been the top-producing state in the U.S. for potatoes since 1957, when it took over the top spot from Maine. (Idaho Potato Commission)
#7. Because of the total number of potatoes that are harvested each year by the Idaho potato industry, the United States is the fifth-largest producer of potatoes in the world today. (Agricultural Marketing Resource Center)
#8. Nearly 60% of the potatoes that are grown in Idaho will be sold to processors. This turns the potatoes into dehydrated products, potato chips, and French fries. (Agricultural Marketing Resource Center)
#9. In the United States, the average person will consume about 110 pounds of potatoes, with most of them being produced in Idaho. In Europe, the average person will consume over 200 pounds of potatoes each year. (Northern Plains Potatoes)
#10. 60% of exported potatoes are shipped in the form of frozen French fries. Fresh potatoes make up 14% of total exports. Dehydrated potatoes and potato chips make up 13% of the export market respectively. Potato seeds are just 1% of the total export market. (Idaho Potato Commission)
#11. The average American will consume 50 pounds of frozen potatoes each year. They’ll also consume 35 pounds of fresh potatoes each year. (Idaho Potato Commission)
#12. Canning accounts for just 1 pound of the total potato consumption for the average U.S. citizen each year. (Idaho Potato Commission)
#13. Just one potato that is produced by the Idaho potato industry provides up to 45% of a person’s daily Vitamin C needs. There is also more potassium in a serving of potatoes than there is in a banana. (Idaho Potato Commission)
#14. Potatoes are naturally gluten-free. The average potato only has about 110 calories, making it a healthy eating option since it has simple and complex carbohydrates. (Idaho Potato Commission)
#15. Just one medium potato produced by the Idaho potato industry offers 2g of fiber, which is about 8% of the average person’s daily recommended intake of fiber. (Idaho Potato Commission)
#16. In a 2014 survey regarding potato products, 72% of Americans said that they would prefer to eat potatoes grown by the Idaho potato industry compared to potatoes grown in other states. (Idaho Potato Commission)
#17. 90% of Americans say that they associate potatoes with the State of Idaho compared to any other state in the country. (Idaho Potato Commission)
#18. The Idaho potato industry contributes nearly $4 billion to the state’s economy each year. That includes about 30,000 jobs. (Idaho Potato Commission)
#19. The Idaho Potato Commission is an official representative of the state’s potato industry. Their website generates more than 1 million visitors per year, with about 17% of them returning for more information. (Idaho Potato Commission)
#20. 80% of Americans consume potatoes at least once per week. Since 2009, Americans have moved from eating potatoes 2 days per week to eating them 3 days per week, with many of them coming from Idaho. (Idaho Potato Commission)
#21. 1 in 4 people in the United States say that potatoes are the vegetable that they crave most often. That is four percentage points higher than the next vegetable and 10 percentage points higher than broccoli, which came in third. (Idaho Potato Commission)
#22. Although French fries are the most commonly exported product from the Idaho potato industry, 29% of Americans say that they prefer their potatoes to be baked. Another 25% say that they prefer mashed potatoes. French fries, at 17%, comes in third, followed by hash browns, potato chips, and then potato salad. (Idaho Potato Commission)
#23. To market Idaho potatoes, a large truck with a giant potato has traveled the United States each year. The truck travels 25,000 miles per year, has visited over 4,000 cities and towns, and hosted 31 events that had over 100,000 people in attendance. (Idaho Potato Commission)
Idaho Potato Industry Trends and Analysis
Potatoes are a major staple of the Western diet. It takes about 10,000 pounds of potatoes to create 2,500 pounds of potato chips. In the United States, the average person will consume about 4 pounds of potato chips per year. In 2011, the U.S. consumed 1.5 billion pounds of potato chips, which equates to 6 billion pounds of potatoes.
Because of the demand for potato-related products, the industry as seen a price increase of $0.32 per cwt in 2016 from the previous year’s numbers. The average cwt price in 2016 was $9.08.
Certain political pressures may affect certain export markets, such as the tariff that Mexico has placed on specific potato imports. With high levels of domestic consumption, however, the Idaho potato industry looks to continue thriving in the months and years to come.