Climate change prompts S. Korea to test banana cultivation

By Lim Chang-won Posted : October 24, 2017, 17:04 Updated : October 24, 2017, 17:04

[Courtesy of Haenam Agricultural Technology Center]

Helped by a climate change caused by global warming, South Korean farmers eye new strains of crops such as bananas that have never been cultivated on the Korean peninsula for new income sources.

Banana farming is possible only on the southern resort island of Jeju, known for a subtropical weather, but its inland test cultivation is underway in the southwestern seaside county of Haenam.

For a banana cultivation climate, the yearly average temperature in Haenam is still lower than 10 degrees Celsius. So, the county's agricultural research center has set up a special greenhouse to test the cultivation of apple mango, coffee, banana, passion fruit, chayote, and dragon fruit.

According to the state-run Rural Development Administration, South Korea's average temperature has risen fast to become home to an increasing number of fruits and grains that have never been harvested before.

In response to global warming, Haenam has accelerated the development and commercialization of cultivation techniques for subtropical and tropical plants. In June this year, the center successfully harvested bananas in four varieties.

Once proper cultivation technology is established, it will be distributed to farmhouses for full-scale cultivation, read a post on the county's news blog.

"Due to climate change and a change in the tendency of consumption, we believe subtropical plants can be competitive crops," an unnamed county official was quoted as saying. However, no timetable was given, suggesting Haenam has a long way to go for the commercialization of cultivation techniques.

A business survey released by South Korea's major discount chain E-mart in July showed imported bananas beat apples as South Korea's most favorite fruit, reflecting their price competitiveness and popularity among young women who are diet-conscious and want meal replacements.

Bananas have gained popularity due to soaring prices of apples and other home-grown fruits. Philippine bananas account for more than 70 percent of the domestic market. Young women use bananas as meal replacement food or for a weight loss diet.

The price of a bunch of imported bananas stands between 3,000 and 4,000 won, while home-grown bananas are being sold at up to 7,000 won because consumers believe imported fruits may contain residual agricultural chemicals.

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