China eyes the potato as new staple
MOVE over, rice. The humble potato - the mainstay of Western meals - is spreading its roots across China.
Some 100 dishes featuring the crop will be selected from around the nation to be displayed at a national potato-themed convention in June, said the Ministry of Agriculture earlier this month.
This initiative comes as the authorities seek to promote potatoes as a staple food in the rice-loving country.
Some reasons for doing so are to ease poverty and use potatoes as an ingredient to manufacture nutritious food items.
The selection process for the 100 dishes ends on March 31.
It would be based on recommendations by individuals, restaurants and food companies, according to a ministry report.
Besides being featured at the seventh China Potato Expo in Kunming in Yunnan province, the dishes will also be compiled into a book.
The move to promote potatoes as a staple is also part of the country's agriculture crop plantation adjustment.
China aims to set aside 6.66 million ha of land on which to grow potatoes by 2020, according to guidelines on developing the potato industry issued by the Ministry of Agriculture on Feb 23.
The latest guideline puts the crop on the path to become the nation's fourth food staple - after rice, wheat and corn.
Nine pilot provinces, including Beijing, Hebei and Inner Mongolia, are already making greater use of potatoes in mass-produced food products.
Beijing, for example, has over 200 supermarkets selling steamed buns made from potato powder.
"To set potato as a staple is a significant move in wiping out poverty, yet it means more than just that," said Ma Zhongming, a member of the national committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, in an interview with China Economic Net on Sunday.
"Making potatoes a staple doesn't only mean to feed people with it but, rather, making better use of it by sending it to the production line. Potatoes could be processed to be more nutritious with better taste and a wider variety," Mr Ma said.
Eating potatoes has many benefits as it is rich in fibre, naturally fat-free and high in potassium.
Such traits help people to avoid overeating while boosting calcium and protein intake.
Chinese authorities say the consumption of potatoes for food-staple purposes will comprise 30 per cent of total potato consumption, and that 30 per cent of the potatoes cultivated in the country are of varieties that are feasible for the production of food staples.
CHINA DAILY/ASIA NEWS NETWORK