China Pins Food-security Hopes on Humble Potato
The Chinese government has begun ramping up research, production and training related to the humble spud, and hopes are high that it could help alleviate poverty and serve as a bulwark against famine.
The challenge of feeding a growing nation on a shrinking supply of arable land while confronting severe water shortages has long been a major concern here. China has to feed one-fifth of the world’s population on one-tenth of its arable land, and the nation’s expanding cities are consuming farmland at breakneck speed. China estimates that by 2030, when its population is expected to level off at roughly 1.5 billion, it will need to produce an additional 100 million tons of food each year.
That statistical reality could change eating habits here. Potatoes need less water to grow than rice or wheat, and they yield far more calories per acre. In rice-cultivating regions of southern China, farmers can squeeze a round of fast-growing potatoes into their rice fields in between planting seasons. In some of the poorest parts of arid northern China, potatoes are among the few crops that grow.