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Wednesday, May 26, 2010

I-CAL - Day 9 - Taiwan

As our time winds down here in Taiwan, we made sure that our day was jam packed with new experiences, new friends, and new opportunities. Our first stop was a new opportunity as we visited one of the 150 universities here in Taiwan. The National Taiwan University was originally started as a Japanese Imperial school in 1928, and is the said to be the best university in the country. The dean of the college, Dr. Bao-Ji Chen, told us about the universities 11 colleges, 54 departments, 2 professional schools (one being Veterinary Medicine), and 33,393 students. We felt at home as he introduced some of his top professors and named their alma maters as Iowa State, Cornell, and other United States institutions. The former U.S. Grains Council Director, Dr. C.M. Lynn helped us better understand the industry and provided us with some comic relief. It was tough to leave the beautiful campus, but we made sure to grab a picture before heading off to the next destination.
On our next stop we were greeted with a familiar face that had joined us for dinner the night before. Herbert Wong was a leader and member of the Taiwan Feed Industry Association (TFIA). TFIA represents 59 feed mills making up about 60% of the overall Taiwan feed volume. They provide support, advocacy, and training to its 53 members. The Taiwan Feed Industry Association was a key stop because Taiwan imports 99% of its feed grains, and United States corn accounts for 81% of the corn imported. Herbert joined us for lunch at a Chinese restaurant, and answered any of the questions we had. It was easy to see that Herbert was a huge promoter of U.S. Grains, and a new friend to us all.
After a short break, we were back on the bus and headed to one of Taipei’s many suburbs to the China Grain Products Research and Development Institute. More than 40 years ago, the Taiwanese government turned to this R and D Institute to help solve the rice shortage. Through diversification programs, the institute promotes the use of wheat and barley as substitutes for rice in the Taiwan diet. They research new foods, analyze current cereals, and teach chefs and other students how to cook their favorite breads, cakes, and pastries. Not only was it great to hear about the new developments in the grains institute, we also got to taste some of the students work.
For dinner, we met a new friend, Ruby, who studied at Illinois State University last month and joined us for dinner the night before with her father a deputy director of the council of agriculture. She took us to the night market where we could buy grilled pork, fresh fruit, and knock-off purses all in one place. The streets were packed as we walked around, but it wasn’t until we smelled a distinct aroma that we knew we were in for a new experience. The culprit: Stinky Tofu. It may not sound, smell, or look appetizing, but given the chance again, I’d order two!
New opportunities, new experiences, and new friends made this day one of our favorites, but tomorrow, we look forward to another wet market, a bio-plastics plant, and Taipei 101.

Dan Halvig – University of Minnesota
Ashley Gatling – University of Arkansas


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