Taiwanese officials launch organic veggie scheme for schools
Taiwan's Council of Agriculture (COA) has teamed up with the New Taipei City Government to create an organic vegetable supply system, building on an initiative launched in September that ensured weekly servings of organic produce in 280 schools.
A COA release said the scheme would provide farm production, logistics supply, and catering services to provide a stable supply of food through contract farming, reaching an estimated 346,000 students in primary and secondary schools.
"In 2014, students will receive GAP (Good Agricultural Practice) certified vegetables four days a week with the purpose of being able to enjoy certified and nutritious lunch every day," the release said.
"This increase in consumption will further drive production, which will encourage more farmers to adopt GAP production or even organic farming. The idea is to let consumers transform the agriculture in Taiwan into a safe and healthy industry."
As part of the deal that began on a smaller scale last year, inspectors have conducted regular weekly sampling inspections to check the pesticide residues of plantations under contract, with only those that pass gaining acceptance for schools.
"In addition, in order to enforce the complete and traceable mechanism of GAP, the COA will assist New Taipei City Agricultural Products Marketing Co. to incorporate the GAP traceability function into its current Organic Vegetable Supply and Coordination Management Information System, making it possible for parents to check information on suppliers for every batch of vegetables from production, marketing, distribution and to central kitchen, finally to school," the release said.
At the end of last year, the COA recorded 5,951 hectares of certified organic farmland registered in Taiwan. From this, the authorities have identified 98 organic vegetable farmers who grow across 243 hectares, who have been matched with eight companies to supply schools.
"Every week 145 (metric) tons of vegetables are distributed to New Taipei City schools," the release said.
As for New Taipei City, it receives 450 metric tons (MT) of vegetables each week from GAP-certified farmers.
"The contractual farming system ensures that the producers assume responsibility for the quality and safety of their products. Only conscientious farmers can grow healthy and safe vegetables for our next generation."
COA emphasized that other local governments have also adopted organic nutritious lunch policies, including Yilan County, Taoyuan County, Taichung City, Hsinchu County, Miaoli County, and Pingtung County.
"By the end of 2013, a total of 511,000 students in 662 primary and secondary schools enjoyed their organic lunch meals at school," the release said.
"Thus, the COA urges other counties also to join the project in order to let the next generation eat more healthy food."