This week on Jeju: A to Z, Todd Thacker takes a brief look at some Jeju’s carrot industry. Despite supplying Korea with over 60% of its carrots, farmers here have increasingly had trouble with overproduction and wildly fluctuating prices.
We’re into January now and transitioning from one orange-colored Jeju crop — the mandarin orange — to another… one that is hearty, nutritious, and served on nearly every table in Korea.
This is none other than the island’s carrot crop, which is now being dug from Jeju fields, cleaned, boxed up and shipped all over the mainland and exported on a limited scale to Japan.
Though we first think of the tourism industry, the island is indeed a predominantly rural part of the nation. According to provincial government statistics, over 60 percent of Korea’s carrots are grown here. In fact, Jeju farming households make about 20 percent more than the national average — about 36 million won annually.
Carrots, sweet potatoes and winter squash are all rich in vitamins and fiber. The carrot, for example, is considered something of a winter “superfood” in that it supplies vitamin C, B and A, beta-carotene and antioxidants. Eating such vegetables can help you boost your immune system and stave off a winter cold or infection.
However, not everything is rosy when it comes to the day to day for local carrot farmers. Carrots are a rather labor-intensive crop, one which requires manual seeding, weeding and harvesting — all slow, backbreaking work.
Problems with profitability and oversupply regularly come to the fore. The local government and farmers’ unions have stepped in with financial help and special purchasing deals. But many have switched from carrot production to other crops that are less prone to such volatile fluctuations, like beans and barley.
For now, though, carrots are a major crop for a good number of Jeju’s farmers and retailers, and offer all Koreans a tasty, homegrown source of nutrients that play an important role in the health of the nation.
Todd Thacker KCTV