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In observance of World Food Day, the COA speaks up about food security measures


The decision to celebrate World Food Day on Oct. 16 was first made during the United Nation's Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) 20 th General Conference in 1979. The practice formally began in 1981, in which the FAO selects a specific theme on an annual basis to help raise international awareness on issues related to food security, agricultural productivity and world hunger. This year, a total of 150 nations pledged to observe the 22 nd World Food Day and the FAO theme of "Strengthening Agricultural Management to Safeguard Food Security." As the title implies, the 2012 movement is aimed at bolstering the efficiency of global food productions to maximize agricultural output. In line with the spirit of World Food Day, the Council of Agriculture (COA) has been implementing a few programs of its own – a fallow lands mobilization policy that encourages farmers to either rent out their farmland or to grow crops that can lower the nation's dependency on foreign agricultural produce; a Taiwanese rice publicity campaign that recommends boosting the nation's food-sufficiency rate and lowering carbon emission levels simply by eating more locally grown rice; an organic production scheme that supports farmers who switch to eco-friendly farming practices; and a green-farming pilot project that aims to establish a water-conserving agricultural corridor in the counties of Changhua and Yunlin. These programs and more are aimed at promoting resource management and greener farming practices that will propel Taiwan's agricultural sector forward.

Mobilizing fallow farmland to boost the nation’s food-sufficiency capacity

As global warming continues to trigger a series of volatile weather events across the globe, all food production and supply chains face increasing levels of disruption, the COA pointed out. In the face of soaring grain prices, the government has listed food security as one of the nation's top priorities and has taken extra measures to promote its "Eat Local" policy – a consumer awareness program that will lower the nation's dependency on long-distance foreign imports, boost the consumption of local produce and reduce Taiwan's overall carbon footprint. The key to increasing the nation's food-sufficiency rate from the current 32 percent to 40 percent by the year 2020 is to revitalize fallow farmlands, the COA added, explaining that an average of 200,000 hectares of arable land currently lies idle per year, costing the government over NT$10 billion in subsidies while not contributing to the nation's agricultural output nor creating any employment opportunities. Under the COA's revitalization plans, there will be more incentives for farmers to plant their fields for at least one crop season per year, in which crop selection can fall under four categories: cereal grains, commercial woods, export-oriented produce or environmentally friendly crops. Cereal grains such as non-genetically modified maize and soybeans will lower the nation's dependence on foreign supplies, whereas commercial woods that have a maximum yield within a short time span will prove to be a profitable venture. Moreover, robust produce such as green soybeans, iceberg lettuces and carrots have high export potential, while organic crops will not pollute the environment, have high market value and can help restore natural balance to the soil. Altogether, the COA has ample reasons to believe that replanting the nation's fallow lands with crops from these four categories will be a significant step towards achieving the coveted 40 percent food-sufficiency rate without compromising the fertility of Taiwanese soil.

Another equally strategic policy is the COA's Small Landlords and Big Tenant-Farmers Program, a government-backed land leasing scheme that has successfully drawn younger generations back to the countryside in recent years. With support from the business community, tech-savvy graduates are exceptionally equipped to run farms like a well-oiled enterprise, enhancing overall efficiency in both production output and marketing endeavors. Last but not least are the plans for establishing a water-conserving agricultural corridor that will run through the counties of Changhua and Yunlin, in which the COA aims to create a water-efficient irrigation system that will serve as a prototype for similar establishments around the nation. The tighter management of agricultural resources, sophisticated water distribution methods and the utilization of information technology will form the basis of such "green corridor" establishments, which in turn will attract replacement crop growers and seedlings producers and give rise to "high-tech" agricultural hotspots. The winning combination of greater economic output and improved sustainable practices will only drive the nation's agricultural sector to greater heights, concluded the COA.