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COA's New Vision to International Market of Agricultural Products and Its Promotion Program
2015.1 (Issue No. 271)
Facing the global trend of promoting free trade continuously, Taiwan’s agricultural policy must actively develop and implement international marketing strategies and expand global markets for its agro-products in order to achieve sustainable development as well as to cope with this global competition trend. To further assist the export of Taiwanese agricultural products, the Council of Agriculture (COA) launched the yearly International Marketing Program started from 2004 to actively expand overseas markets, aiming to boost the export growth of agricultural products from Taiwan.
Promote international marketing to boost the annual increase on export
Since the COA launched the International Marketing Program, the export of agricultural products has increased gradually every year. Based on statistics provided by Customs, the export value of agricultural products reached US$5.08 billion in 2013 with a growth of 56.6% from US$3,24 billion in 2003 before the program had been launched. Currently, the five major export markets are China (18.1%), Japan (16.3%), Hong Kong (10.3%), the United States (9.3%), and Vietnam (7.6%). All of which enjoyed a continuous growth (0.2% to 16.4%) except for the Japanese market. The Chinese market growth is especially notable. The export value to China rose to US$ 920 million last year thanks to cross-strait charter flight agreement and the signing of Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA). That same figure was only US$ 440 million in 2008 before direct cross-strait charter flights existed. With a growth of 110%, China has surpassed Japan to become the largest export market for Taiwanese agro-products. By the end of November 2014, the total export value of agricultural products had reached US$ 4.88 billion which is 4.5% growth compared with the same period in 2013. In particular, the export to China was US$ 910 million and grew 11.1% compared with that in 2013.
Crucial measures to enhance international market promotion
1. Overseas market research and business opportunities information collection
The international agro-product trade changes rapidly and usually related information is hard to come by. In order to better understand market trends of international markets, the COA had first selected a few having competition advantage products for export, such as orchids, tea, among others to focus on, and then identified potential new emerging markets through professional conferences and seminars. Finally, the COA counseled relevant associations to work together with local companies in collecting worldwide business opportunities as references for domestic enterprises. In recent years, orchid cultivation techniques continued to advance due to a dramatic increase of demand for orchid flowers on the international market. In order to ensure the European market share, cooperative projects with Dutch businesses was well planned. Taiwanese companies were encouraged to visit Holland and absorb relevant knowledge as well as obtain market trends, through which they can elevate Taiwan’s orchid industry technology level.
2. Establish a positive international image for Taiwanese agricultural products
In recent years, the Council has been actively counseling farmers' group and agro-businesses with export potential by organizing delegations to participate in international trade shows and related events, thus facilitating their connection with the world while promoting high quality agricultural products from Taiwan. In order to establish a universal imagery for Taiwan’s agriculture, the Council had created the Taiwan Agriculture Overseas Visual Identity System in 2013 for relevant agro-associations, farming and fishery groups to use when they participate in overseas events and international trade shows. Furthermore, the COA has also entrusted Taiwan External Trade Development Council (TAITRA) to promote the aforementioned visual imagery in international food shows in order to build a universal image for Taiwan’s agriculture.
Moreover, the Council subsidizes food sample tasting promotion activities to encourage domestic companies that participate in international trade shows to develop novel products and packaging. Companies benefitting from this project must provide important information, such as new international market trends, list of products with export potential, and important feedbacks or accomplishments obtained during the trade shows as references to COA for future policy-making use for drawing further promoting international marketing strategy.
3. Development of overseas distribution channels in target markets
In order to assist Taiwan’s agro-products to establish sales channels overseas, the COA has been continuously organizing agricultural products distribution promotional events abroad in recent years. Moreover, overseas agro-product distribution and display centers have been established in major markets such as Japan and Hong Kong, which will lead outstanding agro-products to enter international arena. Japan used to be Taiwanese agro-products’ biggest export market. However, since Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe took office and adopted the Easing Monetary Policy, Japanese yen devaluated and consumption tax increased. As a result, the export of Taiwan’s agro-products to Japan dropped. In order to stabilize the export volume of fresh fruit to Japan, a partnership initiative with Japanese chain restaurants and izakayas (Japanese drinking establishment) is being planned to seek other alternative retailing channels besides supermarkets. On the other hand, a new type of marketing tool called O2O (online to offline) will be introduced to help Taiwanese young soy beans cut into Japanese on-line shopping market. This marketing strategy will take advantage of smart handheld devices, mobile internet, and social networks for introducing promotional activities through Groupon to attract consumers' attention effectively.
Currently, Japan is still the major market for Taiwan’s cut flowers. As for countries in the Southern hemisphere, such as Australia and New Zealand, Taiwan had taken advantage of seasonal differences in cultivation to promote Taiwan's flowers in the Southern hemisphere.
In recent years the domestic black tea production has kick-started a consumer trend. Therefore, in addition to the traditional marketing strategies, content marketing would be adopted to enhance the impression and imagery of tea-making process, master tea makers, secret of aroma, attention to quality, and other relevant stories, which in turn will leave strong impression of Taiwanese tea culture in the world.
With the rapid expansion of the internet, global consumer pattern has undergone swift changes in the last couple of years. Virtual on-line retail channels such as e-commerce and social network marketing tools have replaced conventional consumption models to become the newest mainstream. Therefore, the President commanded the Executive Yuan to form the E-commerce Development Advisory Task Force in order to improve basic domestic e-commerce infrastructure, develop interdisciplinary technological innovation, and internationalization of e-commerce. The Council is committed to promoting the development of e-commerce for agricultural products, and in order to grasp the enormous business opportunities of e-commerce in China, there will be cooperation with local agents, e-commerce platforms or distributors in the near future, aiming to assist business sectors with more complete e-commerce background to enter the Chinese market under the favorable Chinese policies of Commencement of Cross-border E-commerce. Room temperature agricultural products and processed products as well as fresh fruit would be principal sales items. Moreover, high-value and characteristically story-rich products such as competition tea, champion rice and mullet roe are selected through rigorous selection process to establish long-term cross-border e-commerce channels.
4. Training of international marketing talents strengthens export competence
In order to prepare agro-product global marketing professionals, the COA annually organizes relevant activities, such as courses regarding agro-product international marketing, international forums, and overseas trade delegations. Complying with the Executive Yuan's policy to further develop Halal markets, the COA will organize the Malaysia & Halal Marketing Strategy Seminar. Among guest speakers are representatives from Jabatan kemajuan Islam Malaysia (JAKIM) as well as professionals mastering in Halal certification from Taiwanese and Malaysian companies and associations. They will introduce Muslim culture and consumer's orientation, talk about Halal certification application procedure, and exchange experiences with business sectors. In addition, Malaysia Agriculture and Trade Delegation would be organized to offer domestic companies an opportunity to contact Malaysian distributors directly, enabling the companies to develop Malaysia and its neighboring Muslim markets.
Moreover, since 2004 the Council has integrated public and private resources to launch the counseling project named Improving Visual Image and Packaging Design for Export Agricultural Products. The goal of such project is to advise exporters how to establish a brand and packaging design fit for different target markets abroad on the basis of supplying excellent agricultural products in order to enhance product and corporate image as well as international competitiveness through brand value. There are three major strategies planned for the year 2015, namely "private brand development and packaging design improvement for export", "brand management enhancement", and a relatively new strategy "product testing and market development". The Council is also planning to offer training courses for retailing channels entering Japan in order to assist companies that are already exporting private brand products to overseas markets. The COA will arrange trips to Tokyo for these companies to meet with local market experts including importers, agents, and designers. The objective is to obtain market information, adjust market positioning and eventually enhance the exporters’ competitiveness in the Japan's market through in-depth communication, exchange of market experience, distribution test and actual field tests.
Agriculture in Taiwan would continue to develop towards two directions: “world-class production” and “international marketing” while taking into consideration the demands of the niche markets. In order to deal with the upcoming next-stage free-trade era, the COA will collaborate actively with the National Development Council to promote the “Value-added Agriculture in Free Economic Pilot Zones” program, which consists of nimble utilization of foreign and domestic materials that possess quantity, pricing and quality advantages. Along with the integration of advantageous factors, such as outstanding Taiwanese manufacturing technology, safe and healthy production process, and strong agricultural R&D capability, it is undoubtedly favorable to the promotion of integrated industry value-added development as well as innovative industry value chain. The program will surely inject rejuvenating energy for the export of Taiwan’s agricultural products.