Thu, May 12, 2011 - Page 2 News List

More food self-sufficiency planned

FOOD SECURITY:One of the main obstacles to increasing the nation’s agricultural output is ensuring an adequate water supply, so water conservation must be encouraged

Staff Writer, with CNA

The government has targeted an increase in the nation’s food self-sufficiency rate from the current 32 percent to 40 percent by 2020, officials said yesterday at a National Food Security Conference.

President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) endorsed the goal at the end of the two-day conference, saying that Japan and South Korea already had self-sufficiency rates of 40 percent, and suggested two ways that the target could be achieved in Taiwan.

One method would be to cultivate the country’s 209,000 hectares of fallow land, while the other would be to increase the -production of soybeans, wheat, corn, sugar, sorghum and other staples, Ma said.

Council of Agriculture Minister Chen Wu-hsiung (陳武雄) said that at least 140,000 hectares of fallow land would have to be cultivated to bring the nation’s food self--sufficiency rate up to 40 percent by 2020.

One of the problems, however, is ensuring adequate water supplies to reach that goal, and Chen said he hoped local governments could increase water conservation, while pushing for “agricultural zone” projects.

One of the most pressing problems related to the management of water resources is in Taichung, where the irrigation and draining systems are not separated, Chen said.

He said his council would complete a national survey of farmland by the end of this year to identify where most idle land lies and how arable fallow land is.

To increase Taiwan’s crop output, Water Resources Agency Director-General Yang Wei-fu (楊偉甫) said incentives should be offered to farmers who have done a good job of water conservation.

Agriculture consumes 70 percent of Taiwan’s water supply, while 90 percent of the water used to irrigate farms comes from rivers and streams and is free, Yang said, a situation he felt needed to be reviewed.

Ma also encouraged the public to consume more rice-based products, as many Taiwanese have developed a taste for wheat-based goods in recent decades.

He said that 30 years ago, an average Taiwanese consumed 98kg of rice per year — a figure that has fallen to just 48kg today. In contrast, the average consumption of flour has increased from 23kg to 36kg per person over the same period.

If each of the nation’s 23 million people were to eat one more mouthful of rice a day, rice consumption would increase by 1kg per person per year, or 23,000 tonnes in all, he said.

That would be enough for the government to cultivate 5,600 hectares of idle land, with the resulting crop plus other indirect benefits adding NT$1.3 billion (US$45.4 million) to the gross national product, he said.

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