After four years of trial and error, products made with 100 percent locally grown wheat are set to go on sale later this month, challenging the purported agricultural claim that “Taiwan is not suitable for growing wheat.”
In addition, buns, mantou (steamed bread) and bread made from more than 50 percent Taiwanese wheat will also enter the market starting next month.
Rejoice Bread Workshop owner Shih Ming-huang (施明煌) said during the international food crisis in 2007, which caused wheat price to soar, he asked himself: “Is it true that Taiwan isn’t suitable for growing wheat?”
He began his “Wheat Fantasy” project by employing farming methods that excluded the use of herbicides and chemical fertilizer.
Shih said his Rejoice White Dolphin All-Purpose Flour will be the first produced that was not part of a government contract.
The white dolphin — a species rated as being “critically endangered” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature in 2008 — was used in the products name to emphasize environmental protection, he added.
In the past three years, Shih said he has made all the harvested wheat into whole wheat flour. This year will mark his first time making it into all-purpose flour in an effort to increase the percentage of Taiwanese wheat in food products.
On Monday, 13 tonnes of wheat grown in Syuejia District (學甲), Greater Tainan, was sent to Hung Hsing Flour Mill in Dadu District (大肚), Greater Taichung, to be milled. The all-purpose flour from 100 percent Taiwan-grown wheat was made after two hours of grinding.
“Just as expected, Taiwanese wheat tastes sweet,” said Lee Hsin-wu (李信武), president of the Wheat Product Marketing Class.
Hung Hsing Flour Mill manager Huang Pei-chen (黃北辰) said the good quality of the flour was “surprising.”
He said the US flour extraction rate can reach 73 percent, but Taiwanese wheat can reach more than 78 percent.
According to Huang, between 1 million and 1.1 million tonnes of wheat are imported to Taiwan each year and the price of Taiwanese contract production is higher than that of imported wheat from US.
Therefore, production quantity and cost must be calculated when considering grinding Taiwanese flour in the future.
HISTORY OF GROWING
Experts said there are records of wheat growing in Taiwan from the Japanese colonial period (1895-1945).
In the 1960s, wheat production had reached 25,000 hectares, but as the importation of wheat increased through the years, plantations in Taiwan decreased rapidly.
Warren Kuo (郭華仁), a professor at National Taiwan University’s Department of Agronomy, said the price of wheat has spiked twice in the past three years, so the central government should learn from European countries by providing subsidies to encourage the growth of wheat on fallow land.
Agriculture and Food Agency Deputy Director-General Yu Sheng-feng (游勝鋒) said the agency is happy to see non-governmental success in the production of wheat, but added that Taiwan is still best suited for growing corn.