In China, rice is often at the centre of its national cuisine and its dinner tables.

Yet the Chinese government has recently set its eyes on a new staple: the potato.

A starchy building block for many European meals, the potato crop could offer a solution to food security issues in China, where one-fifth of the world's population lives.

Beijing was recently the host of a World Potato Congress, which gathered experts to discuss the future of potato farming and sales in China.

Government officials say that the quality of the potato crop in China is high, yielding many healthy varieties. The potato is also a low-maintenance crop, requiring less land and water than rice.

Yet local consumers might not be willing to accept a new presence on their plates. For many Chinese, the potato is only a culinary accessory, not the main star.

"We will have it like an extra vegetable. But it's not the basis for a whole meal," one woman told Al Jazeera.

Yet the potato congress aims to demonstrate how potatoes can become a main component of the Chinese diet, with their consumption on the rise in many fast food restaurants in the country.

"In Inner Mongolia we've been eating potatoes for a very long time," Yang Zhendong, a potato farmer, added. "People should learn there are lots of ways of using them, like potato noodles."

Al Jazeera's Rob McBride reports.

Source: Al Jazeera