New agriculture: leveraging strengths, embracing innovation

  • Date: 2016-12-26

I. Background 

Agriculture in Taiwan is currently facing challenges both domestic and foreign, including a changing population structure, the fragmentation of arable land, trade liberalization, the increasing impact of climate change on production volume and price fluctuations, and a growing public concern about agricultural product safety. To meet these challenges and develop modern agricultural capabilities, the government has proposed a “new agriculture” promotion project (2017-2020) as part of the “five plus two” innovative industries plan.

The “new agriculture” program will use technological innovation to raise the added value of agricultural products and ensure the well-being and income of farmers, establishing a new agricultural paradigm and safety systems while strengthening marketing capabilities. The project also incorporates resource recycling and ecological and environmental sustainability concepts that will promote industry transformation and development, and create new agricultural models that combine existing strengths with innovative ideas.

 

II. Promoting a new agricultural vision of well-being, safety and prosperity

Based on the principles of innovation, employment, equal income distribution and sustainability, the “new agriculture” program will promote the administration’s 10 major policies by creating a new agricultural paradigm and safety systems while strengthening marketing capabilities, which will spur modernization.

A. New agricultural paradigm: protecting farmers, fostering agricultural development, ensuring environmental sustainability

1. Promote “green payment” initiatives

In 2016 the Council of Agriculture (COA) ran a two-track pilot program in six townships that paid farmers for providing green benefits, and guarantees the purchase of second-crop rice at a specified price. These measures will be extended to first crop production in a total of 18 townships in 2017. Beginning in 2018, the current guaranteed purchase and green payment policies will be combined into a unified green payment policy.

2. Stabilize farming incomes

(1) Implement agricultural insurance

In 2016 an agricultural insurance pilot program was expanded to cover all varieties of pears, and in 2017 that program will also include rice, mangoes and agricultural facilities as well as income insurance for sugar apples. Relevant agricultural insurance legislation will also be promoted.

(2) Increase incomes for professional farmers, care for the welfare of elderly farmers

Continue the social welfare policy that provides monthly pensions for elderly farmers to ensure they are cared for; shore up the “agricultural land bank,” incorporating land owned by Taiwan Sugar Corp. and public farmlands; formulate an overall plan for farmland rental and utilization by a new generation of farmers; promote a program to cultivate 30,000 new farmers in 10 years, implement agricultural finance measures and provide technical guidance to make professional and new-generation farmers more competitive.

3. Increase the competitiveness of the livestock and poultry industries

(1) Pig slaughterhouses and carcass transport vehicles will be directed to install temperature-controlled storage facilities, and traditional pork merchants will be encouraged to use refrigeration equipment when selling fresh meat to improve the quality and safety of domestic pork products.

(2) Implement programs to eradicate foot-and-mouth disease and prevent bird flu; promote biogas power generation by raising the purchase price to NT$5 (US$0.16) per kilowatt-hour and increasing installed capacity from 500 kilowatts to 2,000 kilowatts; turn biogas sludge into organic fertilizer.

4. Promote environmentally friendly farming

Increase incentives for environmentally friendly farming by offering subsidies for organic and eco-friendly agricultural practices; plan and promote legislation regarding organic farming to encourage eco-friendly practices and sustainable resource utilization.

5. Promote the sustainable use of agricultural resources

Create a solid foundation for sustainable agriculture in Taiwan by taking an inventory survey of agricultural and farmland resources, resolving the shortage of farm labor, cultivating new farmers and promoting sustainable fisheries that protect the natural habitat.

6. Push for technological innovation

Pursue research, development and applications for automated and intelligent machinery equipment to reduce labor requirements, save energy, improve farm operations and stabilize marketing capabilities for quality agricultural products; develop innovative and energy-saving circular agriculture techniques to increase the value of recycled resources and create a sustainable agricultural operations model.

B. Agricultural safety systems: ensure product safety and quality, build trustworthy label certification system consistent with international standards

1. Improve food security

(1) “Breadbasket” project

Target non-genetically modified grains including soy beans and corn; establish a contract farming system for grain crops and develop regional grain drying, packaging and distribution centers; using an area-based collective model, promote cooperative operations through contract-based grain production and sales; develop diverse processing and marketing capabilities for grain crops.

(2) Increase food self-sufficiency

Adjust policy subsidies to increase the production of import substitution crops; use demand to drive supply through food and agricultural education and school lunches; actively expand external markets and strengthen international marketing and exports.

2. Ensure the safety of agricultural products

(1) Implement a five-part food safety program

Various program measures will include food source management, strengthening safety controls over production and distribution processes, increasing inspection frequency for agricultural products, and having schools use local, certified foods.

(2) Establish a label certification system that consumers can trust

Have a certification label for organic agricultural products in conformance with forthcoming legislation on organic agriculture; align the domestic food product traceability system with GLOBALG.A.P. standards; gradually integrate Taiwan’s own Safe Agricultural Products, Certified Agricultural Standards, and Agricultural Traceability Certification labeling systems into a comprehensive system that consumers can trust.

C. Agricultural marketing and promotions: making the industry profitable and sustainable

1. Diversify domestic and external sales channels

Establish modern logistics and transaction mechanisms for agricultural products, and expand into emerging markets in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and South Asian countries, New Zealand and Australia by promoting agricultural industries in conjunction with the New Southbound Policy. On December 5, 2016 the government also established the Taiwan Agricultural Global Marketing Co. Ltd., which will provide export guidance to domestic producers to strengthen contract production, product consolidation, quality control, brand creation and overseas marketing to increase agricultural exports.

2. Increase the added value of agricultural industries

Use integrated marketing systems and contract production to support the establishment of food processing facilities and equipment for agricultural, fisheries and livestock products; establish regional product consolidation and handling centers; implement a “six-level industrialization” model to integrate the agricultural production (primary industry), processing (secondary industry) and marketing (tertiary industry) functions. Set up regional processing facilities for agricultural products to stabilize the marketing function and develop new markets for domestically processed agricultural products.

 

III. Benefits expected by the end of 2020

A. Increase domestic food self-sufficiency rate to 40 percent.
B. Increase production value of agricultural industries by NT$43.4 billion (US$1.36 billion).
C. Create 370,000 job opportunities.
D. Increase portion of total agricultural exports destined for emerging markets to 57 percent.

 

IV. Conclusion

Agriculture is the lifeblood of the nation, so “new agriculture” policies are crucial for Taiwan’s future economic development. The government hopes to promote new agricultural innovations to provide a firm foundation for industry transformation and development, and strengthen the agricultural sector’s basic structure and competitiveness. These advances will usher in a new era that will bring domestic agricultural products to global markets while promoting the sustained development of Taiwan’s agricultural economy.