Taipei, Taiwan’s late President Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) fulfilled many political wishes during his lifetime, not least of which is achieving democracy, but he did not see one of his last wishes fulfilled before passing away on Thursday.
That is transforming the nation’s beef industry by developing a Taiwanese breed of cows that was better than Japanese ones known for their prime quality meat.
In 2016, Lee, who held a doctorate in agricultural economics from Cornell University in the United States, purchased 19 heads of cattle which had been put out to pasture on the Qingtiangang Grassland of Yangmingshan National Park in Taipei.
The cattle were later verified as an ancestor breed of Tajima, one of native Japanese cattle breeds.
The cattle were then taken to a leisure dairy farm in Hualien County, eastern Taiwan, a place with clean air and vast grassland that Lee selected to fulfill his post-retirement “dream” of breeding Taiwanese prime beef cattle using his agricultural knowledge, according to the Lee Teng-hui Foundation.
At the farm Lee initiated, he carried out his ambitious plan of developing a cattle breed he named “Yuanxing (源興)” with the Tajima breed of cattle, which was brought by the Japanese to Taiwan during World War II.
He wanted to do it by means of molecular breeding technologies, according to former chief of the Council of Agriculture (COA) Chen Bao-ji (陳保基).
The former president had great hopes for Taiwan’s beef industry, Chen was quoted as saying in a United Daily News report published Friday.
Working with Taiwanese universities and professionals in Japan, Lee’s team used advanced technologies to test the quality and analyze the DNA of the cows, while breeding cattle that are adapted to the local climate, Chen noted.
What Lee wanted, however, was not just to breed Taiwan-exclusive prime beef cattle that were of an even higher quality than those in Japan, he also wanted “thoroughly transform the beef industry of Taiwan,” Chen was cited as saying.
According to Yu Mei-yun (游美雲), a manager at the cattle farm, called Harvest Ranch in Hualien’s Fenglin Township, Lee’s breeding project has been a top secret kept by a professional team.
No employees of the dairy farm have been permitted to enter the cowsheds housing Yuanxing cattle in the past few months because of the COVID-19 pandemic, she said.
Lee’s team, however, helped nurse 300 milk cows at the farm, raising their milk output, which in turn made a fortune for the farm, Yu said.
Since 2016, Lee visited the farm every year for three consecutive years even though he was in his 90s, she said, noting that the former president carefully inspected every breeding detail in person.
Lee had planned a visit again early this year, but it was canceled after he fell ill, Yu said.
In honor of Lee and to mark the farm as a place of his unfulfilled wish, the Harvest Ranch on Friday changed the name of the farm’s main road after Lee, calling it “Teng-hui Boulevard.” The road is close to the largest patch of grassland at the ranch.
Lee, who guided Taiwan through a rapid and peaceful transition to democracy while serving as Taiwan’s president from 1988 to 2000, died of multiple organ failure at the age of 97 on Thursday.
In addition to leaving behind political legacies, including helping to build Taiwan into a democracy by holding the first direct presidential election in 1996, Lee, who was dubbed “Mr. Democracy,” had also made great contributions to the agriculture-dominated economic development of the country while he was president.
Chen praised Lee as the person who pushed for the transformation of Taiwan’s agricultural sector, helping promote the traditional agricultural industries to be upgraded with technologies.
In 1997 when Taiwan’s hog-raising industry was hit by the foot-and-mouth disease, resulting in the mass slaughter of the stock, the then COA, with Lee’s support, took the opportunity to promote a policy that encouraged small hog farms located close to water conservation areas to withdraw from the industry, according to Chen.
The policy was aimed at cutting the number of small hog farms in Taiwan and in doing so, reducing the water pollution caused by pig farming, while bringing technology to the bigger farms.
While he served as the governor of Taiwan Province from 1981 to 1984, Lee initiated an “80,000 agriculture troop” policy aimed at cultivating 80,000 professional farmers to produce enough crops that supported the rural economy of the nation, said former COA official and Tainan Deputy Mayor Hsu Han-chin (許漢卿).
Under Lee’s leadership as the provincial governor, farmers were integrated into “production and marketing groups” to foster professionalism in crop cultivation and mass production, Hsu said.
Many follow-up measures, including promoting Taiwan to join the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) and the World Trade Organization, helped Taiwan’s agriculture industry to connect with international markets, he added.
In Luye Township of the agriculture-dominated Taitung County, Lee was remembered by many local residents as the “parent of rural villages” who revived a local tea-producing village in the area, according to Pan Yun-feng (潘永豐) a former executive of the Luye Farmers’ Association.
On April 9, 1982 Lee visited the Yong’an village which grew Oolung Tea. Several days later he named the locally-produced tea “Fu Lu Tea (福鹿茶),” which made the locally grown Yong’an tea famous, Pan recalled.
At peak production times, 80 percent of Yong’an villagers are involved in tea growing and production, with children picking tea stems to earn pocket money, women picking tea leaves in gardens, and men producing tea, Pan said, “the crop has become prosperous.”
The tea industry continues to flourish in the Luye area with new products, including the so-called “red oolong” developed in 2007, Pan added.
Recalling that Lee had visited the Luye tea-growing area for a total of six times, with the last visit in 2014, Pan said the former president asked for Fu Lu Tea drinks every time he stayed at a local hotel.
Lee had even planted a tree at the hotel and named it “Everlasting Taiwan Tree.”
“He always thought about farmers,” Pan said.
Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel