In an attempt to quell the escalating Dapu Borough (大埔) farmland expropriation controversy Premier Wu Den-yih (吳敦義) called a press conference with Miaoli County Commissioner Liu Cheng-hung (劉政鴻), Minister of Agriculture Chen Wu-hsiung (陳武雄) and Minister of the Interior Jiang Yi-huah (江宜樺) on Thursday.
During the conference, Wu declined to promise that more agricultural areas would not be seized for future development projects, but he did say that food security is an area of national strategic importance.
While Wu stopped short of addressing Taiwan’s food security from a strategic perspective, he has pointed out a crucial issue — one that has raised grave concern around the globe.
Food security is an issue that needs to be tackled on a strategic level, but is often overlooked by government officials preoccupied with economic growth in the industrial sector.
Given its importance, what is the government’s food security strategy?
An examination of the agriculture white paper issued by President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and Vice President Vincent Siew (蕭萬長) during the 2008 presidential campaign shows the administration’s strategy is far from comprehensive
The white paper says: “[The campaign’s] agricultural development goals are to develop healthy, efficient and sustainable agriculture for the people,” with an aim to raise production efficiency, focus on food safety and achieve co-existence with the environment.
Most of the white paper is dedicated to either pledges to improve farmers’ living standards or criticism of the Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP) agriculture policy.
The annual administrative guidelines drawn up by the Executive Yuan since the Ma administration took office in 2008 do mention the idea of maintaining food security, but only briefly.
The Executive Yuan says in its guidelines that it will “revive fallow farmland and adjust the production and sale structure of rice in a bid to ensure food security.”
Unfortunately, that is where all mention of food security ends.
There are not even independent sections outlining the government’s food security strategy in the Executive Yuan’s annual administrative goals.
This lack of a comprehensive strategy is alarming because, statistically speaking, Taiwan is over-reliant on imported food.
The Agriculture and Food Agency’s latest data show that domestic production of crops, including rice, wheat and corn, in 2007 totaled 1.18 million tonnes of Taiwan’s total consumption of 7.6 million tonnes of these crops.
A similar situation is found in the domestic production and supply of crops like potatoes, sweet potatoes and others, with imports of these root vegetables supplying up about 95 percent of domestic needs.
Wu said during a meeting with concerned academics and farmers representatives on Tuesday that being self-sufficient in food supply should be made a national strategy.
Although he made the remark to salvage the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) government’s image in the wake of the Dapu farmland seizure controversy, hopefully the idea of developing a comprehensive strategic food security policy will become more than just words.
Maybe it’s time for the government to propose a white paper detailing its food security policy that addresses the strategic importance of this issue instead of just trying to score political points.
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