Lying at the heart of Asia, along the ancient Silk Road, Kyrgyzstan was introduced to the potato - and its Russian name, kartofel - during the 1800s.
Although the mountainous country is suitable mainly for grazing livestock, the new crop flourished in the temperate climate of the northern foothills, and today Kyrgyzstanis praise the potato as their country's "second bread".
Since 1992, potato production has increased almost fourfold, from 360 000 tonnes to a record 1.37 million tonnes in 2007. By head of population, Kyrgyzstan now ranks as the world's 10th largest potato producer, while its annual consumption of potato - more than 140 kg per capita - is second only to that of Belarus.
Potato growing in Kyrgyzstan is held back by shortages of virus-free seed tubers, improved varieties and agricultural inputs. But the country's rapidly expanding production has attracted investors - recently announced joint ventures with companies from India and the Republic of Korea are building potato processing plants that aim at producing 40 000 tonnes of starch and bio-ethanol a year.