Table Speech

Potatoes that Spread Around the World from Andes

April 16, 2014

Mr. Takashi Koike
President, Frente Co., Ltd.

 Potatoes originate in the mountains of Central Andes. They belong to the solanaceae family, together with tomatoes, tobaccos, chili peppers and eggplants. Extremely bitter and poisonous wild potatoes then were inedible. Going through a number of mutations and food preparations that made them less bitter, potatoes were first domesticated around 5000 BC.

 The Inca Empire that flourished in the 15th century made innovative developments in production technology and breeding. Potatoes were introduced to Europe by the Spanish around 1570, after the Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro ruled the Inca Empire in 1532. Potatoes were regarded to be unfit for human consumption for a long time, often called the “creation of devils” as they looked ugly and not mentioned in the Bible. Potatoes came to achieve widespread acceptance during food shortages and famines caused by repeated wars of expansion. Potatoes spread rapidly in war-winning countries of Germany and France, and became a staple in Germany and England before long. Fish and chips supported the Industrial Revolution behind the scenes in the late 18th century, as many laborers loved this inexpensive and tasty food.

 Our company produces potato chips, which were first invented in the US around the same time. In 1853, an American chef named George Crum fried paper-thin potatoes, after receiving a complaint by a customer that his French fries were too thick and tasted bad. Many new potato dishes were developed in the late 1800s.

 It is widely accepted that potatoes were first brought to Nagasaki, Japan, via Jakarta by Dutchmen after 1641. It was only in the late 1700s that potatoes gained popularity, especially in Hokkaido. Just like in Europe, potatoes spread throughout Japan during food shortages and famines of the Edo period.

 Let me share an interesting episode about the Irish Cobbler potato, called Danshaku Imo (baron’s potato) in Japanese, brought to Japan by Baron Ryuukichi Kawada. Baron Kawada studied shipbuilding technique in Scotland from 1877 to 1885, where he fell passionately in love and got engaged with a British lady named Jenny. As an international marriage was out of the question back then, he returned to Japan in despair. His fond memory was sharing a delicious potato with Jenny while taking a walk in the Scottish countryside. Determined to produce the potato with fond memories, Baron Kawada moved to Hokkaido in his later years and succeeded in cultivating the Irish Cobbler potato that has become the most famous breed in Hokkaido today.

 Before closing, let me highlight that potatoes are drawing renewed attention to solve world food shortages that looks inevitable sooner or later. Initiatives to produce potatoes more efficiently are being implemented in Africa to reduce starvation. The Food and Agriculture Organization declared 2008 the “International Year of the Potato” and advocated for awareness-building on the importance of the potato. I sincerely hope potatoes will help ensure food security for future generations.

Securities Investment in Japan
※Initiation Speech does not appear

April 16, 2014

Mr. Shigenobu Aikyo
Chairman, SMBC Nikko Securities Inc.