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Premier touts mechanization, modernization for smarter agriculture

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Premier Su Tseng-chang on Thursday received a Council of Agriculture briefing on the mechanization of Taiwan's agricultural industry and the modernization of its agricultural equipment. In order to comprehensively advance this process, the government has approved additional funding of NT$9.2 billion (US$317.2 million) over four years, starting from 2022, to subsidize farmers' purchases of agricultural machinery and accelerate the transition to a smarter agricultural industry.

In recent years, the premier said, the government has tackled the problem of labor shortages in agricultural communities via three approaches—optimizing insurance and pension schemes, supplementing manpower and promoting automation. In the first approach, the government completed the establishment of four welfare systems for agricultural workers—health insurance, occupational hazards insurance, agricultural insurance and a pension savings system. To supplement the basic labor force, the government also expanded a pilot program to hire migrant workers for the agricultural sector and promoted a program for long-term retention of migrant workers. The third approach is the additional subsidies for agricultural machinery, which will further upgrade the efficiency of agricultural operations and alleviate the agricultural industry's worker shortage.

In the past several years, the number of agricultural implements subsidized by the government jumped from 2,000 units in 2017 to a cumulative 167,000 units last year, and subsidies likewise soared from NT$24 million (US$788,000) to a cumulative NT$4.4 billion (US$157 million) last year. Thanks to this policy, over 150,000 agricultural workers have benefited, and land area serviced by agricultural machinery has increased to nearly 80% of all farmland, saving over 800,000 person-days of work for the agricultural labor force.

This initiative will make the work of crop planting and harvesting more efficient while easing the agricultural labor shortage problem. Mechanized operations will also keep crops off the ground during the entire process from harvesting to precooling, thereby improving food sanitation and safety and sparing farmers from occupational injuries. The premier further said that automation of grain storage and harvesting, together with the nationwide cold chain logistics project underway, can help the industry achieve operational consistency in production, manufacturing, storage and sales, while also increasing incomes for agricultural workers, enhancing Taiwan's food self-sufficiency rate and boosting the competitiveness of the agricultural industry.

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