HISTORY AND OVERVIEW
The potato (Solanum tuberosum L.) was introduced to coastal southern Asia in the late sixteenth or early seventeenth century by European (initially Portuguese) mariners, but the historical record for roughly the following two centuries is complicated by the word itself. “Potato” is derived from “batata,” the Carib term for sweetpotato (Ipomoea batatas), which preceded the potato by eighty years in its introduction to Europe from its area of origin in the American Andes. Both crops were subsequently introduced by Europeans to ports throughout Asia and Africa, but documented references to “batata” during this era could be referring to either (Purseglove 1968).
The first unambiguous evidence of potato cultivation in Nepal dates to 1793, in records by a British Colonel Kirkpatrick (Akius et. al. 1990, cited in Katri and Rai 2000, p. 61). The potato remained a relatively minor and unrecognized crop in Nepal for over 150 years, until the first official attempt to improve potato production in Nepal occurred in 1962 under a program sponsored jointly by Nepal and India. In 1972 the National Potato Development Programme was founded by the Government of Nepal, focusing on the production of higher quality potato seed tubers. Over the past few decades, potato has become the fastest growing staple crop in Nepal. Production trends are summarized graphically below.