COA holds talks on supplying bananas to Japanese schools

Officials from the Cabinet-level Council of Agriculture held talks with a delegation of business representatives from Japan's Shizuoka prefecture July 18 in Taipei City on developing further collaborative projects to bring Taiwan bananas to schoolchildren in the central Japanese region.

On July 11, business groups represented by the delegation donated some 5,600 Taiwan bananas to students in the Shizuoka city of Shimada and town of Yoshida. This followed a successful 2016 agreement between the COA and Shizuoka's Gotemba to feature Taiwan bananas in the lunch programs of 10,000 pupils in the Japanese city.

According to the COA, these projects have bolstered awareness of the high quality of Taiwan fruit in the Japanese market, while creating new opportunities for cooperation between local agricultural producers and Japanese enterprises.

The success of these projects has generated interest in establishing similar programs among local governments and business groups in other Japanese prefectures, the council said, adding that talks are underway with agencies in Akita prefecture to introduce Taiwan-grown produce to retirement homes under this model.

The COA said that it will continue to pursue such avenues for international collaboration as well as work with Taiwan's agriculture industry to enhance the nation's competitiveness and increase the presence of local products in overseas markets.

Dubbed the Banana Kingdom in the 1960s, Taiwan was once a major producer of the fruit. During the latter half of that decade, the local agricultural industry exported up to 480,000 tons of bananas to Japan a year, with Taiwan-grown bananas accounting for roughly 90 percent of the Japanese market.

In the years since, the Philippines and Ecuador have replaced Taiwan as Japan's major banana suppliers, with Taiwan shipping 3,253 tons of the fruit to Japan in 2015, or less than 1 percent of the total. Last year, banana shipments to Japan, which comprise the bulk of the nation's exports of the fruit, fell significantly to 1,580 tons due to the impact of adverse weather conditions on local growers, according to the COA.

Banana production has increased in Taiwan in recent years, with the vast majority of crops consumed in the domestic market. In May, the council projected annual output will reach about 350,000 tons in 2017, up from around 270,000 and 280,000 tons in 2015 and 2016, respectively.

Source: Taiwan Today