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Why China's government wants its people to eat more potatoes

China has a problem: it has to feed 20 percent of the world's population with just 10 percent of the world's arable land.

by Isobel Yeung
Feb 5 2017, 5:25pm

This segment originally aired Jan. 27, 2016, on VICE News Tonight on HBO.

China has a real problem: It has to feed 20 percent of the world’s population with just 10 percent of the world’s arable land. And the government recently announced farming practices are too intensive to be sustainable, all while demand for food grows more quickly than supply.

Last year, China decided on a bold solution: to transform the potato into one of its staple foods.

“Potatoes, they are easy to grow. They grow in bad soils. The water requirements are low. You don’t need irrigation necessarily, so it’s cheap,” Minzu University of China ethnoecologist Karlis Rokpelnis said in Beijing. “It creates a kind of farming where you don’t have to be on the land as much.”

In a country famous for its rice consumption, however, convincing people to love the spud requires some persuasion — a task that a loyal Communist party member known as “Sister Potato” has taken upon herself.