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Jul. 28, 2020

TAC members underscore FFTC’s need to adapt to the COVID-19 era

TAC members underscore FFTC’s need to adapt to the COVID-19 era

The people behind FFTC’s 25th TAC Meeting. Seated L to R: TAC Member and TARI’s DG, Dr. Hsueh-Shih Lin; TAC Member and DG of COA’s Department of International Affairs Mr. Chia-Rong Lin; FFTC Director Dr. Su-San Chang; and FFTC Deputy Director Dr. Akira Hasebe. Standing from L to R: FFTC’s Administrative Specialist Mr. Charles Wu; Associate Researcher Mr. Kun-Chang Tsai; Observers from COA, Mr. Albert Wen and Ms. Selena Hsu; Ms. Woan-Ru Lee, Director, BAPHIQ’s Planning Division; FFTC’s Information Officer Mr. Ronald Mangubat; FFTC’s Food System and Nutrition Specialist Dr. Ray-yu Yang; FFTC’s Senior Secretary Ms. Chia-Chuan Chang and FFTC’s Assistant Researcher Ms. Jennifer Lii.

Members of the FFTC Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) were in unison in saying that with the present COVID-19 pandemic, the Center needs to adapt and adjust its activities and projects according to the tenets of working under the new normal. In the recently held 25th TAC Meeting, which for the first time was done via videoconference, the TAC members who are distinguished agricultural scientists and officers from Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand, Taiwan and Vietnam all agree that the Center should contextualize its present and future projects under the pandemic umbrella. This means transitioning to online activities and following the standard protocols in social distancing.

Dr. Masa Iwanaga, President and Director General of Japan International Research Center for Agricultural Sciences (JIRCAS), who for the third time, has been elected as Chairman of the  TAC Meeting, said that the world has changed since the COVID-19 pandemic and developmental organizations like FFTC can no longer do some things that it used to do. "But we can still take advantage of the situation and make that transition to online activities like e-commerce,” he said. “We can also improve the conduct of webinars and production of virtual learning materials.”

Reacting to the presentations made by the FFTC management headed by Director Dr. Su-San Chang, who made a brief presentation on “Charting New Directions for FFTC” and Deputy Director Dr. Akira Hasebe who presented the Center’s past and current activities and its newly drafted “Strategic Action Plan for 2021-2024,” other TAC members made specific suggestions and recommendations on the themes and topics which they feel FFTC can embark on in the future. These include agricultural marketing innovation, biosecurity, R&D innovation, traceability of agricultural products, block chain technology, agri entrepreneurship, knowledge management, etc. Conduct of surveys, foresight studies and webinars were also recommended to assess the region’s needs and problems under the COVID-19 era, as well as revisiting FFTC’s past clients in order for the Center to improve its collection and dissemination of agricultural information.

In a closed door half-hour session Chaired by Dr. Iwanaga, the TAC members came up with the following recommendations which they later presented to the FFTC management:

  1. Examine the present Strategic Action Plan under the COVID-19 era and make the necessary adjustments in conducting the Center’s activities;
  2. Organize and hold webinars on the following themes: sustainable agriculture food systems after COVID-19; and how each country is dealing with its agricultural activities especially in the area of value chains;
  3. Conduct training programs focusing on Knowledge Management Systems.
  4. Produce videos on certain technologies which can be used by farmers under this pandemic era;
  5. Conduct a foresight study on agriculture for the next 10 years focusing on the Asian region in relation to the economic crisis, climate change, etc.;
  6. Create activities that can take advantage of the E-commerce challenge and how to secure agricultural materials;
  7. Consider the following themes in future webinars: agricultural marketing innovation; biosecurity, demand-driven R&D innovation agenda; agri-entrepreneurship and attracting the young generation of farmers to go into agriculture.
  8. Revisit the Center’s past clients to assess the Center’s impact; and
  9. Examine present MOUs and MOAs and renew those which are about to expire

In her response to the TAC members’ recommendations, Dr. Su-San Chang expressed her gratefulness to all the TAC members for their contributions and active participation despite the technical glitches encountered in the online meeting. She also said that while some recommendations are very ideal, limited resources and manpower might be a hindrance so the challenge of the management is how to implement and operationalize the TAC recommendations given such limitation.

This year’s TAC Meeting via videoconference was well attended with 11 of the 12 TAC members present. Dr. Kazuo Kyuma, President of the National Agriculture and Food Research Organization (NARO) in Japan who could not make it to the meeting was represented by Dr. Atsuro Matsuda. Before pre-COVID-19, the TAC Meeting used to be a whole day meeting but with the videoconference technology, this was reduced to only three hours. Since 1977, the FFTC-TAC meets every two years to provide advices to the Center and help identify agricultural information needs, evaluate the Center’s programs and activities and make recommendations to further improve future work programs.

The 25th TAC meeting reports

Dr. Su-San Chang delivers her presentation on “Charting New Directions for FFTC” while Dr. Akira Hasebe delivers his presentation on FFTC’s past and present programs and “FFTC’s Strategic Action Plan for 2021-2024”.

Group photo under the new normal. The FFTC management, who were in their home base in Taiwan, and the TAC members who were from their respective countries in Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Philippines, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam pose for an online group photo.

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