Asia, India, China, Russia

Across China: ‘Mr. Potato’ digs gold from ground

LANZHOU, Xinhua — In Northwest China’s Gansu province known for arid climate, potatoes are a main crop that, however, had failed to create much fortune for growers in the past.

About 15 years ago, when Li Xingze began to chair the Lantian potato industry group (Lantian group) in Dingxi city, the biggest challenge to run the company was that there were few quality potatoes available on the market.

The situation had existed for years. Potato farmers used to sell their produce to dealers, but instead of paying cash, dealers issued IOUs in many cases and farmers ended up with no income by the end of the year.

Li Caihua has been growing potatoes for over two decades. “All I got were a bunch of IOUs, I disliked the dealers but had no other choice,” she said.

The biggest loser in the long run of the IOU practice was potato companies, because no farmers were willing to sell their produce any longer, and many had given up on growing potatoes.

So Li Xingze came up with a new pattern by signing contracts with local cooperatives and purchasing potatoes directly from the growers.

“We depend on the farmers to make profits. If they abandon the land, what can we do?” he said. “We encourage farmers to grow high starch potatoes by providing them seeds and subsidies and purchase at higher prices, so the growers can have more income.

Read the full report on XinhuaNet here