As the economy goes, so go potatoes.

Those are the findings of a recent report released by New York city-based Rabobank.

Potato growers should expect a slight slowdown in demand this year before the economy recovers in 2010. They also should expect reduced investments in the potato sector, according to the report.

Once recovery occurs, potato consumption should rise as countries, such as China and India, see increased disposal income and movement toward more Western diets that include fresh fries.

One unknown remains the value of the U.S. dollar. If it should appreciate compared with other currency, potatoes could lose some of their commpetitive export position.

The fried snack food continues to be most important U.S. potato export product.

Domestically, spud consumption peaked about a decade ago. With the advent of the Atkins diet, which gave carbohydrates a bad name, potato consumption started to decline.

At the same time, consumers wanted something different, and some switched to rice.

“Since then, marketing activities have helped reverse the trend of decreasing potato consumption,” says Marieke de Rijke, assistant vice president of Rabobank’s Food & Agribusiness Research and Advisory department. “However, further product innovation will be key for consumers to increasingly appreciate the potato again.”

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