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Kazakhstan begins experimental cultivation of sweet potatoes for South Korea

15 september 2014, 17:18
Sweet potato tubers ©REUTERS
Sweet potato tubers ©REUTERS

Kazakhstan has started experimentally cultivating sweet potatoes for South Korea, Tengrinews reports citing Darkhan Balpanov, the leader of the joint project.

The scientists planted several hundred bushes of sweet potato in three areas of Kazakhstan in May: near Shymkent in Kazakhstan's south, near Karaganda in Kazakhstan's center and in Stepnogorsk in Kazakhstan's further north. The sprouts were provided by the foreign participants of the joint project.

Balpanov said that there was a clearly visible dependence between the growth dynamics of the sweet potato and the climate of the regions where it was planted. Harvesting has already begun in southern Kazakhstan, whereas in the other, colder areas, the root crop has not yet ripened.

The Kazakh expert said that sweet potato is valued because the root crop is rich in vitamins and proteins. Besides, it makes an excellent fodder. 

"The tubers can be used for production of spirits as they contain a large quantity of sugar. However, it is a dietary product, in contrast to the regular potato. Instant noodles and chips are made thereof in Korea and they are not as unhealthy as those made from potatos," the head of the project said.

Sweet potato is a tropical root crop that is traditionally grown in Peru, Colombia, New Zealand, Japan and Korea.

Balpanov explained that scientists from South Korea turned to their Kazakhstan colleagues because South Korea is lacking land to grow its sweet potatoes.

South Korea has a population of 50.2 million people and a tiny territory of 100,210 km2, that puts it into the 109th place in the world by area. Kazakhstan has a population of 17 million people and world's 9th largest territory of 2,724,900 km2.

Kazakhstan grows a lot of regular potatoes, but sweet potatoes have never been widespread in the area and are not commonly consumed by Kazakhstan citizens.

So everything that the Kazakh-Korean joint project will produce in Kazakhstan is destined for the South Korean market.

Since the project is still at the stage of choice of place and climate, it is yet unclear whether it will involve lease of Kazakh land by South Korean and eventually make Kazakhstan a sweet potato plantation for South Korea, or if it is a research project that pursues a scientific goal above all. 

Reporting by Dmitry Khegai, writing by Dinara Urazova, editing by Tatyana Kuzmina

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