South Korean Officials Help Coronavirus-hit Potato Farmers via Online Campaign
Gangwon province, located some 50 miles from North Korea, was the location of the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, but the region is also known for its firm, large potatoes that are grown there.
According to qz.com, the demand for Gangwon’s famed potatoes came crashing down this year with the coronavirus outbreak, as restaurants and school canteens around the country closed down, reducing demand for the crop. According to officials, some 11,000 tons of potatoes from last year’s harvest are in storage and risk rotting away if they don’t reach consumers before April. Farmers complain that the prices have fallen to a level allowing them to make only razor-thin margins.
Provincial governor Choi Moon-soon decided to take action and put out a call on Twitter on March 11 for people to support Gangwon’s potato farmers. In partnership with the local farmers’ guild, the government launched a heavily discounted online campaign for Gangwon potatoes, offering 10 kg of potatoes for just USD4, with shipping costs covered by the province. The price is less than a third of retail prices at grocery stores.
The campaign proved successful, with the website’s server crashing on the first day the it went live, according to local media reports. The online shop later increased its maximum order capacity from 1,400 to 8,000 boxes of potatoes a day, with the goods quickly selling out again the next morning.
According to Gangwon’s governor, the province will continue with its sales campaign until it shifts all the potatoes that are in storage. So far, some 480 tons have been sold online, the rest through traditional market channels.