ROC Yearbook

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The Wubaihu Farm in Hualien takes a sustainable and organic approach to crop farming that also heals and nurtures the land. (Courtesy of Taiwan Panorama)

 

Sectors

In 2015, Taiwan’s total agricultural production value reached an estimated NT$477.72 billion (US$14.98 billion), accounting for 1.77 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product. In response to changing food consumption patterns and increased competition due to market liberalization, the focus of the island’s agriculture has shifted from traditional farming of staple crops to production of consumer-oriented and higher-value commodities chosen for their market potential and Taiwan’s technological advantages.

 

Rice

Rice is Taiwan’s most valuable crop, with a total yield of more than 1.40 million tonnes from 251,887 hectares of land for a production value of NT$37.42 billion (US$1.17 billion) in 2015. In recent years, farmers and researchers have focused on refining cultivation techniques and developing new high-quality varieties, which are not only resistant to climate change and appealing to domestic and foreign customers with fine taste but may also develop into health supplement food or ornamental plants.

 

Some of the finest rice is grown by special production zones and organic farming groups dedicated to the crop. Agricultural product certification, the food traceability system and grading systems help to ensure quality.

 

Fruits and Vegetables

Thanks to Taiwan’s climatic diversity, a vast array of fruits and vegetables are grown on the island, including some not widely available in the West (such as wax apples, lychees and starfruits). In 2015, 2.57 million tonnes of fruit and 2.69 million tonnes of vegetables were harvested from 180,331 hectares and 144,510 hectares of farmland, respectively. The export value of fruits and vegetables reached US$238.01 million and US$166.58 million, respectively.

 

Fruit growers have adjusted cultivation and marketing methods to deal with increased competition from foreign imports while the government has put greater effort into promoting fruit exports. Meanwhile, some orchards are being transformed into agritourism destinations.

 

Tea

Taiwan’s world-renowned oolong tea accounts for about 90 percent of the island’s total tea production, while small volumes of green and black teas are also produced. Tea output has declined over the years due to growing labor costs and the industry’s focus has shifted from export markets to domestic consumers. In 2015, 14,405 tonnes of tea valued at NT$6.83 billion (US$214.11 million) were harvested, of which only  4,496 tonnes were exported.

 

Many tea growers have their products authenticated through the traceability system or geographical certification marks or geographical collective trademarks issued by the Intellectual Property Office 智慧財產局 under the Ministry of Economic Affairs. Meanwhile, owners of many tea plantations have opened their doors to tourists, offering tea sampling and guided tours through the different stages of tea processing.

 

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Floriculture

Thanks to effective marketing and sophisticated cultivation techniques, floriculture has thrived in recent years. In 2015, flower production grew to NT$16.70 billion (US$523.51 million), generating US$193.62 million in exports. Taiwan is the world’s largest exporter of orchids, which represented 91 percent of flower export value in 2015.

 

In March 2016, Taiwan became the first country permitted to export Oncidium orchids potted in growing media (to protect against transport damage) to the United States. Taiwan’s Phalaenopsis orchids, or butterfly orchids, were also granted the same privilege in 2004, with U.S.-bound exports blossoming to US$50 million in 2015.

 

Since 2005, the Taiwan Orchid Plantation 臺灣蘭花生物科技園區 in Tainan City 臺南市 has hosted the annual Taiwan International Orchid Show 臺灣國際蘭展, one of the biggest fairs of its kind in the world. The 2016 event attracted visitors from 26 countries and generated export orders of NT$9.72 billion (US$291.45 million).

 

Taiwan’s famous orchids and floricultural products have garnered awards at a succession of international flower exhibitions, including the Chelsea Flower Show in the United Kingdom, the Floriade World Horticultural Expo in the Netherlands, and the Floralies International Flower Show in France. In 2016, Taiwan collected a silver-gilt medal at the Royal Horticultural Society London Orchid Show and another silver in the international division of the Ghent Floralies held in Belgium.

 

Agricultural Production Profile

 

Livestock

Livestock farming in Taiwan has grown steadily into a mainstay of the agricultural sector thanks to technical innovations and increased demand for animal-protein foods. In 2015, total production amounted to approximately NT$163 billion (US$5.11 billion), accounting for 34.32 percent of Taiwan’s total agricultural production value. Imports of livestock products, including meat and offal, increased by 19.92 percent year-on-year to 428,850 tonnes in 2015, while exports of these products plunged by 35.66 percent year-on-year to 6,740 tonnes.

 

Over the past decade, the livestock industry has undergone restructuring to raise its global competitiveness through strategic business alliances, enhanced disease surveillance and meat inspection systems, and development of national brand names. Farmers have worked with the government to strengthen common procurement mechanisms for stock feed as well as to seek alternative feed ingredients and formulas. Accredited meat inspectors and veterinarians employed by the Bureau of Animal and Plant Health Inspection and Quarantine 動植物防疫檢疫局 under the COA conduct inspections of slaughterhouses nationwide.

 

Fishery

Over the past 60 years, the focus of Taiwan’s fishery industry has shifted from small-scale coastal fisheries to aquaculture and deep-sea fisheries. More than half of Taiwan’s seafood production was shipped abroad in 2015, earning US$1.66 billion and accounting for 33.95 percent of total agricultural exports. Since 2013, Taiwan has replaced Japan as the world’s top supplier of Pacific saury and in August 2015 it joined the North Pacific Fisheries Commission to protect its fishing interests in the region.

 

Aquaculture has grown steadily due to Taiwan’s varied climate and advances in technology and breeding techniques. It contributed 41.9 percent of fishery output value in 2015. Taiwan is one of the world’s major suppliers of grouper and tilapia; its other important aquacultural products include eel, milkfish, oysters and clams.

 

Fishery Production Value in 2015

 

Ornamental Fish Farming

Taiwan has about 260 ornamental fish farms—mostly in southern Taiwan—producing over 300 species. Output value of Taiwan’s ornamental fish and related industries came to NT$3.75 billion (US$117.56 million) in 2015.

 

Agricultural Export

The COA seeks to boost the international presence of Taiwan’s agriculture through exports to strategic and major markets. In 2015, fruit exports jumped 46.98 percent from the previous year, earning the country US$122.26 million. Atemoyas, pineapples and mangoes were the top performers while edamame exports hit a 22-year high of US$76.63 million. However, exports of fishery and livestock products dropped 12.60 percent and 20.93 percent, dragging overall agricultural exports down 7.46 percent from 2014 to US$4.88 billion.

 

The nation’s largest agricultural export market is mainland China, followed by Japan, the U.S., Hong Kong and Vietnam. Exports to South Korea, the sixth-largest market, registered a 13.1 percent year-on-year growth in 2015.

 

Agricultural Exports to Mainland China

Taiwan’s agricultural exports to mainland China has expanded briskly in the past few years to an all-time high of over US$1 billion in 2015. Fruit enjoyed strong growth while the grouper, the top-selling agricultural export to the mainland, slumped by 21.32 percent year-on-year.

 

Signed in 2009, the Cross-Strait Agreement on Cooperation of Agricultural Product Quarantine and Inspection 海峽兩岸農產品檢疫檢驗合作協議 has served as a platform for cross-strait communication on inspection standards. In late 2015, Taiwan began exporting grapes to mainland China, the 24th type of fruit it is permitted to sell on that market.

 

Another significant agricultural accord is the Cross-Strait Agreement on Intellectual Property Rights Protection and Cooperation 海峽兩岸智慧財產權保護合作協議 signed in 2010, which provides an official channel for Taiwanese breeders to apply for and claim plant variety rights in mainland China. In 2012, Taiwan applied for rights over five varieties of butterfly orchids and was granted the rights in March 2016.

 

Agricultural Food Safety

 

Technological Innovations

The COA has 16 research institutes tasked with the development of innovative technologies in different domains, including crops, livestock, fishery, forestry, animal health and plant protection. The institutes have made considerable contributions to Taiwan’s agricultural success over the years through transfer of technology to the private sector. In 2015, they completed 133 cases of agricultural technology transfer, for which royalty payments of over NT$74 million (US$2.32 million) were collected.

 

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To speed up the development of agricultural technologies, the Pingtung Agricultural Biotechnology Park 屏東農業生物科技園區 (PABP) was established in 2003, and as of May 2016, 101 companies had invested in it. Two public manufacturing facilities were opened—in 2007 and 2010, respectively—and another customized cGMP (current Good Manufacturing Practices) plant specializing in animal vaccines was completed in 2010. The PABP’s aquaculture center focusing on ornamental fish was unveiled in 2014 and as of May 2016, over 10 companies had moved into the center.

 

The COA is planning to transform Taiwan’s traditional agriculture into a market-oriented industry with high added value well supported by technology. The aim is to develop unique and competitive strengths and turn agricultural technology research and development achievements into commercially viable products, including animal vaccines, feed additives, biological pesticides and ornamental fish farming. The Agricultural Technology Research Institute 農業科技研究院, inaugurated in 2014, has been tasked with this initiative. In 2015, it obtained eight domestic and overseas patents, completed eight cases of technology transfer, and spurred investment of NT$412 million (US$12.92 million).

 

Taiwan Launches Crop insurance

 

Agritourism

As of December 2015, the COA had certified 359 leisure farms while also transforming 78 recreational agricultural areas into tourist spots. Government initiatives to nurture value-added agriculture and organize farm festivals, together with private-sector efforts to offer agritours, rural cuisine and agricultural specialty gifts, have led to growing interest in agritourism and helped promote sustainable development in rural regions. About 24.5 million visitors were estimated to have participated in agritourism in 2015, generating NT$10.50 billion (US$329.15 million) for the industry.

 

Rural Regeneration

The rural environment has been undergoing a face-lift with the enactment of the Rural Regeneration Act 農村再生條例, which allows residents to propose community revitalization initiatives based on local characteristics, natural ecology and cultural resources. A budget set at NT$150 billion (US$4.74 billion) has been allocated for the 10-year period commencing from the passage of the act in 2010 for the improvement of farming and fishing villages. As of April 2016, 594 communities around Taiwan had proposed regeneration projects.

 

Agricultural Finance

The agricultural finance system comprises the Agricultural Bank of Taiwan 全國農業金庫, which was established in 2005, and the credit departments of farmers’ and fishermen’s associations. These institutions are supervised by the COA’s Bureau of Agricultural Finance 農業金融局, which is also responsible for planning agricultural loans. For agricultural workers without sufficient collateral to acquire necessary working capital, the Agricultural Credit Guarantee Fund 農業信用保證基金 provides guarantees on their behalf, which also reduces lending risks for financial institutions.

 

By February 2016, the balance of deposits at the credit departments of the farmers’ and fishermen’s associations was NT$1.76 trillion (US$52.77 billion), while the balance of loans stood at NT$1.01 trillion (US$30.29 billion). The non-performing loan ratio dropped to 0.52 percent, a marked improvement from 8.13 percent a decade ago.

 

Latest Developments

To address growing concerns from food security and climate change, the central government has set a goal of raising the nation’s food self-sufficiency rate from 32 percent in 2010 to 40 percent by 2020 through concrete measures to bolster domestic farming. These include subsidies to revive fallow land, as well as a number of initiatives to expand agricultural production and promote sustainable farming. Taiwan’s food self-sufficiency rate climbed by 1.2 percentage point to 34.1 percent in 2014.

 

To help Taiwan meet the challenges and opportunities arising from globalization, environmental preservation and cross-industry innovations, the COA in 2015 mapped out several programs for cultivating an innovative and competitive agricultural sector.

 

Foremost is the Agricultural Productivity 4.0 農業生產力4.0 project, which aims to boost Taiwan’s farming productivity by integrating sensor technologies, intelligent robotics, the Internet of Things and big data analysis. The project focuses on three strategies:

  • Forging industry alliances to develop smart agricultural production technologies.
  • Using information and communications technologies to create an integrated value chain and provide farmers with easy-to-use digital services.
  • Applying user-friendly technologies to construct a new communication model between producers and consumers.

A second program launched by the COA aims to cultivate a new generation of professional agricultural workers. Set at a budget of NT$3.30 billion (US$103.45 million), the program will cultivate 30,000 young farmers over the next 10 years. A third program helps farmers reach more domestic and overseas markets by developing e-commerce channels.

 

Related Websites

Council of Agriculture: http://www.coa.gov.tw/

Fisheries Agency: http://www.fa.gov.tw

Easy Agritourism: http://ezgo.coa.gov.tw

Pingtung Agricultural Biotechnology Park: http://www.pabp.gov.tw

Taiwan Agriculture and Food Traceability System (Chinese only): http://taft.coa.gov.tw

Safe Agricultural Products (Chinese only): http://gap.afa.gov.tw

Certified Agricultural Standards: http://www.cas.org.tw

Taiwan Organic Information Portal: http://info.organic.org.tw

The Farmers’ Academy (Chinese only): http://academy.coa.gov.tw