Belarusians love their potatoes. They consume more per head than any other country - an estimated 180 kg, or almost half a kilogram a day.
The potato is believed to have been introduced to Belarus from the Netherlands, and by the 1800's had already become a staple food crop and the heart of the country's cuisine.
Today, Belarus ranks eighth among world potato producing countries, and its annual output - 8.7 million tonnes in 2007 - is about twice that of wheat and barley combined. Over the past 15 years, the country's harvested area has shrunk, from 780 000 ha to 400 000 ha, but production has held steady at an average of 8.6 million tonnes annually, thanks to yield gains.
During the Soviet era, Belarus bred improved potato varieties that were grown on a third of all lands under potato in the USSR, and exported more than 500 000 tonnes of fresh potato and up to 300 000 tons of seed potato.
For now, those days are past: in 2005, potato exports amounted to less than 17 000 tonnes. (Source: International Year of the Potato)