The move comes as part of the country’s bid to find solutions to the impending food security crisis it fears will affect its near 1.4bn population.
While the potato has a long history in Chinese cuisine, spanning back more than 400 years, Yu Xinrong said it is now under-cultivated. The agriculture ministry is putting in place plans to double the current 5m hectares given over the crop by 2020.
This increase in acreage will in turn help safeguard the country’s grain supply, Yu said.
“[The move] is an attempt to ensure food security, ease the pressure on the environment and increase the income of farmers," Yu said.
The world’s most populous country will see 50bn kilos of new food demand by 2020, according to official figures, though a shortage of farmland will make it hard to improve the yield efficiency of wheat and rice. The ministry, however, said this efficiency would be more easily increased with more potato planting.
China has set a absolute minimum of 120m hectares of overall cultivated land in the near future, but pressure on arable land is still great, largely due to rapid urbanisation, the official Xinhua news service quoted Wan Baorui, director of China’s state food an nutrition consultant committee, as saying.
China will turn potatoes into noodles, steamed bread and other staple food products, converting potatoes to a series of manufactured food items, leading to a healthier diet, the agriculture ministry said in a statement.
"As the vegetable is easy to grow even in barren lands, it would also guarantee food supply. The potato is of higher nutritional value compared with rice and wheat flour, which lose considerable dietary fibre and nutrients during processing," said Liu Lan, the general secretary of the China Dietitian Association, on Weibo, the Chinese equivalent of Twitter.
China’s agriculture ministry has a policy of adjusting the structure of its agriculture system to find ways to achieve sustainable development, which it sees as one of the country’s most pressing issues.