Sweet Potato Seedling Nursery for Shochu Liquor Production Opens in Japan’s Miyazaki Pref.

The Yomiuri Shimbun, Courtesy of Kirishima Shuzo Co.
Right: Workers are seen in a seedling greenhouse.
Left: Shochu Kurokirishima

MIYAKONOJO, Miyazaki — A new sweet-potato seedling nursery tied to shochu liquor production opened last month in Miyakonojo, Miyazaki Prefecture.

About 70 people attended a ceremony to mark the opening of the “Imo Terasu” facility on Oct. 13.

Shochu maker Kirishima Shuzo Co., based in the city, established the more than 17,000-square-meter base next to its shochu-producing factory in Shibita, Miyakonojo.

The company aims to cultivate and supply farmers with various types of sweet potato seedling — especially those with high resistance to sweet potato blight — with the aim of ensuring stable shochu production.

Imo Terasu, which cost about ¥1.4 billion to construct, features a management and research building, in addition to greenhouses where healthy seedlings are cultivated using selected seeds.

Cultivated seedlings are planned to be propagated alongside those purchased from specialist companies before being supplied to farmers.

In addition to the staple Kogane Sengan variety, the Michishizuku strain — considered highly resistant to blight — will also be cultured and grown at the facility.

As part of its initial efforts, the company plans to supply farmers with about 2.5 million cut seedlings — including those propagated from parent seedlings — by June, with an expected harvest of around 2,500 to 3,000 tons.

The number of sweet potato farmers registered with the company has dwindled due to aging, among other reasons. Furthermore, a blight-related decline in harvest volumes has forced the company to suspend sales of some of its mainstay Kuro-kirishima sweet potato shochu products.

“We’re keen to solidify the foundation of sweet potato production,” said Kirishima Shuzo President Yoriyuki Enatsu. “We then aim to realize sustainable shochu production in conjunction with farmers.”