To mark FFTC’s 50 years anniversary as an international regional information center, the Centre originally planned to organize a celebratory event and symposium on April 21-23, 2020. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the celebration is postponed to October 6, 2021, and switched to an online event.
The creation of the Center was in response to severe periodic shortages of both food and fertilizers in the 1960s. It was apparent at that time that a lack of technical information among farmers was the basis of the problem, compounded by an inadequate fertilizer supply and a shortage of improved seeds. The underlying motive for the creation of the Centre was the concern about food shortages in the densely populated Asian countries.
For the past 50 years, in light of the change of agricultural environment and technology, FFTC has played an immensely important and productive role in promoting sustainable agricultural and rural development in the Asian and Pacific Region. Through various activities, FFTC collects, exchanges, and disseminates agricultural technology and policy information on a very wide range of modern agriculture and agriculture-related topics, covering the full spectrum of farm needs and activities relevant to the ASPAC region.
Now, after five decades, the Center is faced with more daunting challenges, as well as vast opportunities. Therefore, the symposium, entitled Making Agri-Food Systems Sustainable, will primarily serve as an opportunity to share and exchange current perspectives and challenges that all countries in the region must face and respond to - how can we provide enough food with good quality to the world while at the same time keep the agricultural environment sustainable?
The issue of sustainable food production was further compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic which started in December 2019. The pandemic has not only brought a tremendous impact on human health but also seriously disrupted the global economic activities and the agri-food supply chains. How to ensure a swift economic recovery post-pandemic and build a sustainable and resilient agri-food system is a key concern of all countries in the world.
Sustainable Agri-Food Systems, defined as “the totality of actors in the production, distribution and consumption of food, the relationships between them and the regulatory apparatus governing these arrangements,” are confronting the challenges and opportunities that the agri-food value chains need to deal with. This is very much in line with some of the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): end hunger; ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns; and take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts, and other challenges including our recovery from the disruptions brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.
FFTC invited experts from the Asian and Pacific Region to share their perspectives on the subject and expound on the issues and solutions based on their knowledge and experiences. Through discussions, the needs of both food suppliers and consumers, searching for the possibility of mutual benefits could be better understood. This symposium includes two sessions: 1) Sustainable Agri-Food Systems (Food Supply); 2) Nourishing Asia’s Growing Population (Food Consumption) and an Agricultural Policy Forum - Moving towards Sustainable Agri-Food Systems under and beyond COVID-19 Pandemic.
The symposium concept was initially proposed and organized by FFTC using WebEx Event program (max. 1,000 participants) online platforms.
Several Taiwan officials greeted the FFTC management in the said online celebration. Dr. Chi-Chung Chen, the Minister of the Council of Agriculture as well as FFTC’s Executive Board Chairman, said that FFTC, as an international agricultural technology and policy information center, has played a vital role in the past fifty years as a facilitator of regional cooperation and information sharing in the Asia-Pacific region. He said that the Center’s activities helped paved the way for small-scale Asian farmers to improve their agricultural productivity and welfare that contributed to food security and sustainable agricultural and rural development in the region. He further said that the Center’s role becomes even more significant during this COVID-19 pandemic. He would like to take this opportunity to appreciate time-honored cooperation and support from member countries (Japan, Taiwan, Korea, The Philippines, Vietnam) and partner countries (Australia, Indonesia, New Zealand, Malaysia, and Thailand).
On the other hand, FFTC Director Dr. Su-San Chang mentioned in her remarks that FFTC acts as an intermediary between international and national agricultural organizations within the region and serves as a resource hub on Asian agriculture to deliver the much-needed information to researchers, extension workers, and scientists within the region. she paid tribute to FFTC’s member countries, partner countries and partner institutions for their long-standing support and partnership in the past decades. She also thanked former directors and staff for their contribution.
President Tsai Ing-Wen and Foreign Minister Dr. Jaushieh Joseph Wu each both delivered messages to congratulate the Center’s 50th Anniversary via pre-recorded videos. President Tsai says, as a founding member country, Taiwan will continue to be an active supporter of FFTC and its work while collaborating closely with all member and partner countries. As a host country and founding member, Taiwan has been working closely with the Center to share its expertise with the international community.
The FFTC Executive Board Members from member countries also expressed their congratulations and continuous support to the Center management on the occasion of its 50th year. The members of the FFTC Technical Advisory Committee, FFTC former professional staff and consultants sent their video messages to congratulate the milestone of the Centre.
The opening ceremony also highlighted Director Dr. Su-San Chang’s special report entitled “Looking Back, Moving Forward: FFTC’s Challenges in the Next 50 Years.” In her speech, Director Dr. Su-San Chang briefly reported the milestones which marked the Center in the past 50 years. She also overviewed the current issues that beset Asian agriculture such as low agricultural productivity, climate change, labor shortage and aging population, food insecurity, lack of knowledge on recycling agricultural wastes, etc. She reaffirmed FFTC’s commitment to strive hard to adapt to the environment in the Asian and Pacific Region and would do its best to turn difficulties into opportunities to help millions of small-scale farmers in the region.
There are nearly 100 participants joined the opening ceremony (via Webex and YouTube). The Office of the President, R.O.C. (Taiwan), the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, R.O.C. (Taiwan) and the Council of Agriculture, R.O.C. (Taiwan) released news on their websites regarding the 50th Anniversary Event. The Central News agency, the Radio Taiwan International and 3 Taiwanese mainstream newspapers (China Times, Liberty Times News and United Daily News) also reported the event.
Nine speakers from 8 countries (Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Philippines, Taiwan, Thailand, and Vietnam), and one organization (WorldVeg) shared their knowledge and perspectives from the public and private sectors, and academics. The presentation materials include 9 PPTs, 9 papers, and a proceeding.
Workshop website: (1) VIPs: https://sites.google.com/fftc.org.tw/fftc-50th-anniversary (2) general participants: https://sites.google.com/fftc.org.tw/fftc50thanniversarysymposium-l/home
Keynote Session 1: Toward the Development of Sustainable and Resilient Agri-Food Systems in the Asia-Pacific Region
Dr. Kazuo Kyuma introduced Society 5.0, which is the core concept of Japan’s 5th and 6th Science and Technology Basic Plans. In order to face the challenges from food insecurity, COVID-19 pandemic, to climate change, Society 5.0 is using Information and Communication Technology (ICT) to generate new value by integrating physical and cyberspaces. It can foster economic development and resolve social problems and ultimately create a high-quality human-centric society. He also mentioned the goal of NARO is to achieve productivity improvement of agricultural crops and food products, while conserving the global environment through the realization of Society 5.0 in the agri-food sector and look forward to having discussions on R&D and standardization, which will lead to expansion of agricultural product exportation from the Asia-Pacific region to the world and reduction of food losses and wastes, thereby ensuring economic development of the region.
Keynote Session 2: Circular Approaches to Transition to Sustainable Agro-food Systems
Dr. Marco Wopereis has mentioned that the agriculture system the world used to have is a linear food system, which not only consumes many natural resources and pollutes the environment but also causes the quality of the uneven diet to human’s health. What humans need is greener, healthier, and more resilient food systems, and reduce the consumption of food such as red meat and sugar by more than 50%. To innovate healthier and greener food systems, a circular modal of food systems has been introduced by Dr. Wopereis, which including three parts: (1) Push: Innovations to expand availability and affordability of healthy, sustainably produced food; (2) Pull: Innovations to stimulate acceptability and accessibility of healthy and sustainably produced food; and (3) Policy and governance innovations. Promoting circular and sustainable systems depends on consumers, the food environment, the supply chain, and policies (push-pull-policy framework). Ultimately it will require fair prices for farmers, and consumers valuing food more, in terms of health benefits and how it was produced.
Session (1) Focus on Sustainable Agri-Food System
Mr. Jae-Ho Lee, Korea, introduced the trend of carbon neutrality, and he mentioned that the carbon emissions in South Korean Agriculture were increased about 1% from 1990, however, if it included the energy spending and the whole agri-food system, the number would increase more than 20% of the total emission. The agricultural policies in their country are to reduce carbon emissions, and their target is to reduce 37% of Business-as-Usual (BAU) levels in 2030 and 7.9% GHG emissions in the agri-livestock sector. He also talked about policies for carbon reduction in the major countries. He provided four policy implications and suggestions, including “carbon neutrality strategies covering the entire agri-food system is needed,” “strengthen incentives for farmers’ voluntary participation in climate actions,” “promote low-input, circular agriculture and improve energy efficiency,” and “use carbon neutrality issue as a turning point to turning crisis into opportunity.”
Mr. Rashid Bin Rabu, Malaysia, first introduced the concept of sustainable agriculture and the agriculture sector in Malaysia. Soil, water, and other living creature have been affected by agriculture activities on land, agriculture also has an impact on air, haze, and GHG emissions. They are now driving sustainable agriculture through four main areas: the institution and policy measures, administration and enforcement, encouragement and voluntary program, and research and development. He concluded that their government is now developing a strategic action plan to adopt sustainable agriculture in Malaysia through the gradual improvement of strategic areas mentioned previously. All the necessary actions and continuous efforts managed to certify their farmers for MyGap certification of paddy farms. The improvement of understanding of sustainable agriculture is important agenda at the Malaysia Ministerial level. All the agencies under the Ministry of Agriculture need to have dedicated unite to monitor and develop the best agriculture practices towards sustainable development in the near future.
Dr. Hsueh-Shih Lin, Taiwan, first mentioned the core issues of rice production in Taiwan, and the impact of meteorological disasters caused by climate change on rice yield and quality. They now have five strategies to face the challenges, including the forecast of impact on rice production caused by climate change, adaptation policy in response to climate change, the establishment of the agricultural disaster prevention and early warning system for farmers, agricultural insurance promotion to reduce farmers’ losses and governmental expenditures, and promoting green payment plan for the land, adjusting industrial structure and strengthening agricultural resilience. For future development, Dr. Lin said the Taiwanese government will focus on smart agriculture, future crop growth prediction and adjustment strategies, and regional water resource allocation and precise management to increase the adaptive ability to the climate change and build up sustainable agriculture in the future.
Mr. Arsenio Barcelona, Philippines, introduced the 4.0 agricultural revolution in the Philippines from the beginning. They first collaborated with government prime movers on the R&D program, Philippine seed industry association, and farm machinery distributors to a One D.A. Team. In their 4.0 revolution plan, there are a few major projects included: (1) Project Noah, the nationwide operational assessment of climate hazards; (2) soil health project, to return to basic natural farming and permaculture; (3) environmental care project, aid by ICT and IoT technologies; (4) project of developing the horticulture industry for export and domestic market; and (5) marine resource watch project, to drone surveillance and monitoring of land and sea. He said the agriculture 4.0 revolution is a fight to protect their farmlands and seas to continuously produce safe and healthy food. The technologies can save labor, make work more efficient and provide real-time precise information to aid in decision making, however, they will never substitute human will and judgment.
Session 2: Nourishing Asia’s Growing Population
Dr. Purwiyatno Hariyadi, Indonesia, talked about the post-COVID-19 transformation towards a sustainable healthy diet. The definition of food security (FS) is "it exists when all people at all times, have physical, social, and economic access to sufficient, safe, and nutritious food which meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life," provided by World Food Summit in 1996. He mentioned the indicators of FS in Indonesia and globally and the structure of FS which include food availability, food accessibility, and food consumption that should be maintained and stabilized in a sustainable manner. Food should be love and respect because it’s a highly close connection with our life, love, energy, human right, and more. After the COVID-19 pandemic, people should consider more responsible and sustainable food consumption. To ensure dietary diversity and quality, strengthen local food systems, and maintain food environmental sustainability, humanity should learn the lessons that there are more on food consumption diversity.
Dr. Chuenjit Chancharoonpong, Thailand, first introduced the nutrition situation. Recently Thailand is facing the challenge from the urbanization and aging society, plus the reduction in physical activity and people’s behavior changing (alcohol abuse, smoking, and unhealthy diets) cause the increasing of non-communicable diseases (NCDs). Common NCDs caused 16 million premature people’s deaths. She started to mention how dose COVID-19 affects food safety, food security, and nutrition security in Thailand. To reduce risk factors from unhealthy diets, they have several actions such as Thailand's healthier choice program in 2016, prohibition of tans-fatty acid products in 2018, and sugar tax in 2019. They also plan to have a national salt and sodium reduction policy in 2025 to reduce consumption of salt and sodium in food by 30% to reduce NCDs. But after the COVID-19 pandemic, their food safety is significantly compromised due to the worker shortage, transportation restriction, strict quarantine regulation, increasing food demand, and factory lockdown. To face these challenges, food safety management and prevention in the food industry should be strictly implemented. COVID-19 has indirectly accelerated NCDs because of insufficient income, food deficiency, unhealthy food consumption increased, less physical activities, and restriction to access medical treatment.
Dr. Nguyen Hong Son, Vietnam, first introduced the policies related to food security in Vietnam, their achievement, and the actual situation of food security in their country. He talked about the contribution of science and technology to crop production and gave a frame of the area, yield, and output of major food crops in Vietnam from 1975 to 2020. He also mentioned the increase in food production from 1975 to 2020. The main aspects they focus on are rice breeding, seed production, fertilizer, pesticides, water management, and mechanization. Their future plans include exploitation of the genetic resources for research, selection, breeding of new plants, application of new technologies in the food production system, application of good practices in agriculture (including livestock and fishery), development of sustainable agriculture and value chain which corresponding to climate change, research transfer of advanced-technology in primary production and increase product quality, application of the ICT, IoT, and other precision agricultural tools, and cooperation in research on food security, nutrition security and reduce food loss and waste.
Agricultural Policy Forum - Moving Towards Sustainable Agri-Food Systems under and beyond the COVID-19 pandemic
In the Policy Forum, three panelists from Japan, Korea, and the Philippines first focus on the overall theme and talk about their thoughts, knowledge, and experiences. Dr. Miyuki Iiyama from Japan said the COVID-19 pandemic has caused the imbalances in agri-food systems in surplus and deficit regions through the direct or short-term impacts via trade or supply chain disruptions or through indirect or mid-to-long term impacts via structural imbalance. However, it also creates the opportunities of changing the agri-food system nowadays to a more sustainable and circular way because of the more frequent use of digital technologies in agriculture. Dr. Song Soo Lim from Korea mentioned about two points for the theme, one is the positive aspect shows after the COVID-19 pandemic happened is to show the importance of the agriculture sectors which support the whole economic society as a backbone. Secondly, the pandemic also shows the gap between developing and developed countries, and what those countries that lack the resources really need help to build up a sustainable system such as in the agriculture field. Dr. Ernesto O. Brown shared the experiences from the Philippines how their government such as PCAARRD-DOST making projects to support the food chain sustainable and achieving smart and resilient agriculture to make better cooperation to farmers and government.
The discussion then turns to the production side and discusses the issue of policy context on which areas should be prioritized and promoted when establishing a sustainable agri-food production system. Dr. Iiyama pointed out the priority issue should be climate change mitigation and adaptation. Most of the problems actually existed before the COVID-19 happened, such as biodiversity loss and abuse of chemical fertilizers. Agriculture itself is responsible for about 25% of GHG emissions and what we need to consider is how to achieve carbon neutrality and food safety at the same time. She said the ICT and precision agriculture technology can aid to control agriculture not only from the production aspect but also for marketing as well. Dr. Lim said the most important is the government policy supports to those young farmers, including three aspects: human capital that provides R&D and extension to young people, climate-smart agriculture that expands to field vegetables and concentrates on small-scale farmers, and digital transformation that can directly be used by farmers to create their own value chains. Dr. Brown indicated that those policies that the government made should be consistent or well-aligned to the achievements of a sustainable food system. Precision farming and smart agriculture can be useful tools to not only maintain the profit of the primary production but also mitigate the damages that cause by agriculture to the environment. To make the tools even more useful, Dr. Brown said young farmers should be encouraged to join the primary production via training programs and the increasing use of agricultural technology. The developing country such as the Philippines is also struggling to build up the basic facilities that can support the use of those techniques, such as the internet connection facility.
The second aspect is to discuss the consumption part of the system, including “the challenges and opportunities for the producers and traders of agri-food at and after the critical juncture of COVID-19 pandemic,” “the necessary measures of facing the constraints of shipping and transportation that government needs to take to ensure consumers get enough food,” and “what preparation consumers should do while facing the uncertainty of food supply.” Dr. Iiyama indicated that the most important factors in the preparation of consumers and government are information sharing and collaboration. The proper information, forecast, and full side studies will guide countries and the government to which technology to invest in and what kind of information can motivate consumers to shift their behaviors, such as from animal base food to sustainable plant-based food. Dr. Lim said to see through the country scale of the production side, the producer countries such as China or Thailand are actually increasing their agricultural product export because other countries need it to make secondary production and do further export. For the consumption part, trade behavior has become localization, people start to buy food from the nearby area with a price that might be higher be acceptable because of the social consensus. Dr. Lim thought the three most important things for governments is to collaborate in information sharing, harmonization of standards and stockpile of food, monitor and control export restriction, and promote digital trade together. As for the consumers’ part, understanding the new normal is crucial, and food safety and quality become two major things that consumers care about most, so how to improve consumers' confidence will be the major challenge for the producers and government. Dr. Brown has mentioned about the restriction of the countries should be further reviewed and introduced the example from the Philippines. He pointed out the importance to explore or enhance the supply chains, such as the e-commerce and other channels. Finally, he highlighted and reminded that to keep healthy and good habits of eating or diet.
The sustainable agriculture food system is compatible with the productivity and environment within the range of social acceptance. Human capital and climate-smart agriculture are key points that we need to pursue in the future. Because every country is facing different levels of challenges, each country should find its priority and solution, taking geography, climate, farming, and other condition. It is expected to find the crisis as an opportunity by sharing information on policy and technologies used in each country.
Suggestions and conclusions
82 people registered for the event, and 100 VIPs were invited to join the event. According to the evaluation response, 93.3% of them were satisfied with the workshop. The main takeaways included the following: “Different strategies and policy efforts of each country in ensuring sustainable agri-food systems,” “the importance of measures to realize the shift to more sustainable Agri-Food Systems,” and “overview knowledge on Agri-Food Sustainable system.”