SEOUL, Aug. 11 (Korea Bizwire) — With the sweltering summer heat showing no signs of relenting, an increasing number of South Korean farmers in inland areas such as Chungju are taking advantage of the extreme weather and turning their attention to growing tropical fruits.
In the past, tropical fruits such as passion fruit, which originates in Brazil, could only be grown in warmer regions such as southern counties and Jeju Island, but the growing effects of global warming and El Niño in recent years have seen temperatures in places like North Chungcheong Province rise more than one degree Celsius compared to historical averages, with last year the hottest since records began in 1973.
Along with environmental reasons, the worsening profitability of traditionally popular fruits in recent years is another contributing factor behind the propensity for South Korean farmers to consider tropical fruits such as figs, mandarins and passion fruit.
Lee Sang-hoon, a farmer based in the North Chungcheong Province city of Chungju, is among many who are busy harvesting exotic fruits during the summer season.
Since 2015, Lee has been producing passion fruit with 400 trees planted in five vinyl greenhouses covering an area of 1,650 square meters.
Each year, Lee’s farm yields 1.4 to 1.6 tons of fruit, which he then sells online or at local markets over the weekend.
First introduced to tropical fruits by an acquaintance, Lee has now become an expert in the field of tropical fruit farming, with visitors traveling from outside the community to meet him for advice.
“Chungju was known for apples and peaches and had little to no association with tropical fruits in the past. However, with initial capital and the right approach to cultivation, you can grow tropical fruits in Chungju,” Lee said.
Figs are another popular type of tropical fruit among South Korean farmers which can be found at supermarkets these days.
Im, another farmer in Chungju who has been producing figs for the past seven years, says, “As agricultural technology has developed with the temperature rising, it’s almost true that there is little to no different between subtropical and tropical.”
However, experts warn tropical fruit farming must be approached with discretion as the initial investment required is costly and establishing ties with markets can be difficult.
“Except for bananas and pineapples, the marketability of tropical fruits is limited, which means it’s often hard for farmers to find places to sell. The economic burden of initial capital, heating and management expenses must be taken into consideration,” an official at the Korea Rural Economic Institute said.
Hyunsu Yim (email@example.com)