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McGill University Virtual Lecture: Food and Agriculture in Taiwan - An Overview of History and Cultural Transformation

Dr. Hung Po-Yi presenting his lecture to an online audience including Prof. Robin D.S. Yates and Prof. Grace Fong, and Tracy Lang

The Faculty Excellence in Taiwan Studies Lecture of the Department of East Asian Studies at McGill University invited Dr. Po-Yi Hung, an associate professor in the Department of Geography at National Taiwan University, to give an online lecture on April 22, 2021. The topic of Dr. Hung’s presentation was Food and Agriculture in Taiwan: An Overview of History and Cultural Transformation.

Dr. Hung began his lecture by elaborating how changing global and local factors and their interaction have affected agriculture and human geography in Taiwan and in Southeast Asia alike and then used Taiwan’s tea plantations as an example to examine different factors in different periods. Taiwan’s agri-food system is substantially based on small farms and like other small farms, tea plantations are facing a shortage of agricultural labor because of demographic changes: younger people have migrated away from rural areas, the remaining farmers are ageing, and agricultural land is being used for other commercial purposes.

Dr. Hung pointed out the key role that Taiwan's historical agricultural policies played in the development of the tea industry. But small farms still remain subject to the effects of constantly changing global and local factors. In recent years a popular consumer trend for hand-shaken drinks has revived and boosted tea sales in Taiwan but such trends come and go.

These are just some of the details Dr. Hong presented in the 90-minute event which included a lively Q&A discussion in the last 15 minutes. During his responses to questions, Dr. Hung mentioned the importance of universities implementing USR - university social responsibility. This is something that National Taiwan University has been actively involved in in recent years and he has accompanied his students whenever they go to visit urban and rural farms, to help to strengthen the links and cooperation between universities and regional farmers.