The Council of Agriculture (COA) yesterday honored Taitung County rice farmer Hsieh Mei-kuo (謝美國) with a plaque that reads “Taiwan’s glory” for being the first Taiwanese to win gold at a rice competition in Japan.
More than 5,000 rice products from Japan and around the world competed in the annual International Contest on Rice Taste Evaluation in Kisarazu, Chiba Prefecture, from Nov. 30 to Dec. 1.
The 87-year-old Taiwanese farmer, who has grown rice for nearly six decades, won the award with his organic rice grown in Taitung’s Chihshang Township (池上).
Photo: Chien Hui-ju, Taipei Times
His rice breed, named Kaohsiung No. 147, features a light taro aroma and was cultivated by members of the COA’s Kaohsiung District Agricultural Research and Extension Station.
Producing a quality crop requires the subtle combination of good weather and unpolluted soil and water, as well as consistent human effort, Hsieh said.
Weather conditions can have a great effect on agricultural production, and farmers in Taitung have to contend with foehn winds that can ruin crops overnight, he said.
Hsieh added that for him, the knowledge needed to produce quality rice is more profound than that of calligraphy.
Ranked first in a contest against products from the US, Thailand, China and other nations, Hsieh’s rice qualified to compete against Japanese products, Agriculture and Food Agency Director-General Hu Jong-i (胡忠一) said.
In the contest with Japanese products, Hsieh’s rice received the second-largest number of votes and won a gold prize, he said.
As Japan highly values rice quality and flavor, Hsieh’s rice could be said to be among the world’s best, Hu said.
Taiwanese farmers had previously received only excellence awards, Hu added.
Last month, 1,140 tonnes of Taiwanese rice were sold to Japan, more than double the annual average in previous years, and 1,400 tonnes are expected to be sold to Japan next year, he said.
Taiwan last year produced up to 1.4 million tonnes of rice, with domestic consumption accounting for 1.2 million tonnes, Food Industry Division Director Lin Chuan-chi (林傳琦) said, adding that only a few thousand tonnes were organic.
To solve an overproduction problem, the agency has advised farmers to grow less and focus on higher-quality breeds, or to turn rice into snack products, while encouraging consumers to purchase domestic products, Hu said.
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