The first record of potatoes in Nepal dates back to 1793. Although it remained a relatively minor crop for the next 180 years, some researchers say that its early introduction to the high altitude Himalayas helped fuel the rise of Buddhist civilization in northern Nepal.
In the 1970s, a national potato development programme, focused on improving the quality of seed potato, stimulated a rapid expansion of both cultivated area and production, which increased from 300 000 tonnes in 1975 to a record 1.97 million tonnes in 2006. The potato is now Nepal's second staple food crop, after rice, and per capita consumption has almost doubled since 1990 to 51 kg a year.
Potatoes are widely grown in Nepal, at below 100 m altitude in the south to as high as 4 000 m in the northern mountains. The tuber is particularly favoured by farmers in high hills areas (roughly 1 800 to 3 000 m): it is more productive than rice and maize and the cool climate is well suited to production of seed tubers for sale at lower altitudes.