Efforts are underway to make Hokkaido, the main potato producing region in Japan, with a growing area for sweet potatoes as well. Due to rising temperatures in recent years, it may be possible for Hokkaido to also cultivate sweet potatoes, which are generally grown in warmer climates. Demand for sweet potatoes is on the rise, thanks partly to expanding exports to Southeast Asian countries, where there is something of a boom for Japanese-style baked sweet potatoes.
Kyushu and other top production areas in Japan have had their crops damaged by disease, leading both the public and the private sector to look to Hokkaido for a stable supply.
On Oct. 6, people from fruit and vegetable wholesale companies as well as seed and seedling companies gathered on farmland owned by agricultural corporation Vegetable Works Inc. in the village of Makkari at the foot of Mt. Yotei in Hokkaido. They dug bright purple sweet potatoes out of the earth, which they had planted over about 50 acres of the farmland in June. Together they harvested about 15 tons of sweet potatoes.
“This is the first time for me to grow [sweet potatoes], and they’re pretty easy to cultivate. I’m sure they’ll become more common in Hokkaido,” said Shin Sasaki, 42, the representative director of Vegetable Works.