Root and tuber crops (RTC), including cassava, sweet potato, yams, potato, cocoyams and other minor root crops are important to the agriculture and food security of many countries and overall are a component of the diet for 2.2 billion people as well as contributing to animals feeds and industry. The annual world production of root and tuber crops is about 765 million tones (MT) consisting of potatoes (333mt), cassava (237mt), sweet potatoes (130mt), yams (53mt), and taro and other aroids (12mt). The global consumption of tropical root and tuber crops is around 110kg/capita/year. As such tropical root and tuber crops compare very favorably with the main staple grain crops such as wheat and rice. Most of the potato production is consumed in the developed countries whereas most of the cassava, sweet potatoes, yam, taro and other aroids are consumed in the developing world. Therefore any advances in research and development in tropical root and tuber crops have a major direct impact on improving food security, income generation and commercial development in the developing world, leading to improvement in the social and economic livelihoods of hundreds of millions of poor people.
Despite their importance, however, investment in RTC has been much lower than in the cereal crops. The World Congress on Root and Tubers Crops seeks to support root and tuber crops through the theme 'Adding Value to Root and Tuber Crops'. Root and Tuber Crops are important because they meet local food preferences, providing an important part of the diet as they produce more edible energy per hectare per day than any other crop, they play an important role in food security, nutrition and climate change adaptation, they provide important sources of income through direct sale and value-addition via processing for food and non-food uses. In this respect, the productivity of root and tuber crops is often affected by the accumulation of pests and diseases which are passed on through vegetative propagation. A further challenge is that compared to crops such as wheat, rice and maize, root and tuber crops are bulky, have a high water content and a relatively short shelf-life. This constrains value chain development and the expansion of production and delivery at scale to processors and markets. Appropriate processing technologies and business enterprise models for these crops are not always readily available for potential investors to fully exploit these crops. There is also a need for new, beneficial varieties that meet a range of consumer demands.