Although potato was grown on the Indian subcontinent from the late 16th or early 17th centuries, at Pakistan's foundation in 1947 cultivation was restricted to a few thousand hectares and total annual output was less than 30 000 tonnes.
In the decades since independence, the aalu has become the country's fastest growing staple food crop. Thanks to strong gains in cultivated area and average yields - both made possible mainly by irrigation - output rose between 1995 and 2007 from one million to a record of more than 2.6 million tonnes. The lion's share of potato production comes from the Punjab, where spring and autumn crops account for 85 percent of the national harvest.
Apart from some subsistence growers in the north, most Pakistani farmers produce for urban markets rather than household consumption, and the potato has become a significant source of rural income (worth some $300 million in 2005). At present, annual intake is around 11 kg per capita.
Impression of the geographical distribution of potato cultivation in Pakistan (Courtesy: CIP)