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Current Status of Agricultural Production and Marketing Groups
2015.6 (Issue No. 276)
Agricultural production and marketing groups are the nation’s most fundamental farmers’ organization in rural areas, beginning from the establishment of comprehensive farmer study groups by the farmers’ association in 1952 for the purpose of teaching new farming techniques. From 1971, the government in order to expand the farm operation scale and assist neighboring farmers sharing similar ideas and interests to organize farmers groups. After 1985, as joint farmers groups functioned as the basic unit of developing regional agriculture, the government launched the “comprehensive agricultural land use planning project,” which established the mode of right crop for right land and improved economies of scale and agricultural land using efficiency. As farmers organized a variety of agricultural production or marketing organizations in different names but with similar functions, it impacted on effective use of agricultural resources. Therefore, in October 1992, the government issued the “implementation directions for integration of agricultural production and marketing organizations,” which integrated existing organizations collectively referred to as “agricultural production and marketing groups.”
Recently, in response to the impact of joining WTO on agriculture, the government enacted the “regulations for counseling assistance of agricultural production and marketing organizations” in December 2001, as a way to strengthen the operational capacity of agricultural production and marketing groups. At this time, agricultural production and marketing groups have become the basic goal of agricultural policy. Authorized by the Agricultural Development Act, the “regulations for establishment and counseling assistance of agricultural production and marketing groups” were announced on September 15, 2004. The regulations clearly specified the establishment conditions, application procedures, evaluation methods, counseling, incentives, subsidies and other compliance matters, for agricultural production and marketing groups to follow. However, with the change of domestic social and economic environments, some provisions and evaluation items have not matched the current demands. Therefore, relevant organizations as well as municipal and county/city governments jointly gather to discuss the amendment of some provisions after reaching a consensus.
II. Current status of agricultural production and marketing groups
By the end of 2014, the nation has 6,518 agricultural production and marketing groups. Among them, 5,725(87.8%) are crops groups, 463(7.1%) are livestock groups, 245(3.8%) are fisheries groups, and 85(1%) are others (including leisure agriculture and beekeeping). The number of comprehensive farmers reaches 132,166, which accounts for 24% of the total agricultural employment population of 554,000. Geographically speaking, Yunlin County has 942 groups, Tainan City has 723 groups, and Taichung City has 605 groups. Moreover, Nantou, Pingtung, Chiayi and Changhua Counties have over 500 groups; Kaohsiung City has over 400 groups; Miaoli and Taitung Counties have over 300 groups; Hualien and Yilan Counties have over 200 groups. Recently agricultural production and marketing groups have become the nation’s most fundamental and largest number of farmers’ organizations in rural areas. 75% of the groups are located in the central and southern areas, accounting for 78% of the total group members.
III. Measures of counseling assistance for agricultural production and marketing groups
Counseling systems and counseling content for agricultural production and marketing groups include organizational management, evaluation and reward, and production and marketing assistance, as follows:
1. Organizational management
According to the “regulations for establishment and counseling assistance of agricultural production and marketing groups,” production and marketing groups are grassroots organizations composed of over 18-year-old farmers, who have neighboring lands or manage similar product and volunteer to expand production scale together. They should select the counseling unit, obtain the counseling consent, send relevant documents to the counseling unit for checkup, and apply for registration to the municipal or county/city’s authorities. For registered production and marketing groups, if any registered item changes, they should apply for change to the municipal or county/city’s authorities through the counseling unit within one month. To dissolve registered groups also follows the same procedures.
In order to achieve economic production, production and marketing groups must reach a certain scale. For instance, a group for vegetables, fruits, flowers, grains, rice or special crops must have more than 10 members and cultivate areas over 10 hectares. A group of facility-oriented type must have over 5 hectares. As for the other livestock, fisheries and leisure agricultural groups, each group has its basic conditions of member number and management scale.
Production and marketing groups are the important organization of policy implementation, so whether their information is correct is highly related to policy implementation. To improve the information about production and marketing groups as a reference for agricultural authorities to draft support policy, the Agriculture and Food Agency of the Council of Agriculture provides subsidies to the municipal or county/city’s authorities in the “counseling assistance project for agricultural production and marketing groups” every year. The authorities are responsible for establishment registration, information change and operational assistance. If having a certain number of production and marketing groups, a municipality or a county/city would receive a professional assistant serving for production and marketing groups. In addition, to fully control the dynamic information about production and marketing groups, the “information service system for production and market groups” is established for the grassroots counseling unit as well as for municipalities and counties/cities to build and maintain the information of production and market groups.
2. Evaluation and reward
The municipal or county/city’s authorities should evaluate once every two years all agricultural production and marketing groups registered over six months. For a group with evaluation score less than 60, it should be re-evaluated again next year. The evaluation includes basic organizational operation, organizational function and performance, management performance, and policy cooperation. There are initial evaluation and secondary evaluation. The initial evaluation is done by the counseling units. Then the municipal or county/city’s authorities invite relevant agricultural research institutes, relevant agencies or groups to conduct the secondary evaluation, based on the principle of in-field examination.
In addition, to strengthen the enterprise operation, informatization and institutionalization of agricultural production and marketing groups, to inspire innovative management, and to effectively enhance agricultural competitiveness, the implementation plan of selecting national top ten agricultural production and marketing groups is drafted and held once every two years. Through four steps of screening and recommendation, including grassroots assistant units, the municipal or county/city’s authorities, district agricultural research and extension station, and national selection, national top ten agricultural production and marketing groups as well as 20 excellent production and marketing groups are publicly selected and awarded. The selected groups become learning models for other agricultural production and marketing groups. The objective is to gradually strengthen production and marketing groups’ operational functions and improve their management efficiency, to improve agricultural upgrading and transformation, and to enhance the nation’s overall competitiveness in agriculture.
3. Production and marketing counseling assistance
According to the regulations for establishment and counseling assistance of agricultural production and marketing groups, the authorities and counseling units should offer counseling assistance to agricultural production and marketing groups in terms of management, production technology, marketing ability and deficiency. When necessary, they can ask relevant agricultural research institutes and experts for providing technical advisory services. Based on the key points of annual policy implementation and results of evaluation, they determine subsidized items in the annual plan, granting agricultural production and marketing groups low-interest loans, subsidies or awards, especially giving priority to those passing the evaluation.
The government provides agricultural production and marketing groups with counseling and assistant measures, mainly in the aspects of operational management, production technology and product marketing. It hosts management workshops and seminars to strengthen production and marketing groups’ enterprise-oriented management. Moreover, it establishes products' technology service groups to improve production and marketing groups’ cultivation techniques, and to introduce modern production facilities and set up a contractual farming system for the purpose of stabilizing production and quality of crops. Moreover, the government assists the development of agro-processing and the establishment of brands, so as to create added values and increase farmers’ income. In addition, the government instructs the reasonable use of fertilizers and the safe use of pesticides, helping production and marketing groups acquire Good Agricultural Practice Label, organic verification or other verifications related to product quality and safety.
On the low-interest loans, the government sets “directions of loans for agricultural production and marketing groups and group members.” For the groups or group members having registered according to the “regulations for establishment and counseling assistance of agricultural production and marketing groups” and having qualified after evaluated, the government can offer low-interest loans for capital expenditure and deposit fund to them. If the loan borrower is a production and marketing group, through resolution, that group should assign one group leader or one group member as the borrower in his or her own name. The loan plan shall include the loan purpose, amount and period. The loan term should be verified on the basis of the loan amount and the durability of purchased equipment. The loan term for capital expenditure can last up to 10 years, the loan term for deposit fund can last up to 3 years, and the loan interest rate is as low as 1.5%. These loans mainly aimed to help agricultural production and marketing groups and their members obtain operating funds, in order to improve the efficiency of their operation.
Improving farmers’ organizations is always a significant agricultural policy for the government. Strengthening the enterprise-oriented operation of production and marketing groups, and improving farmers’ organizations is even listed as one of the presidential 12 important agricultural policies. Through improving the organization of production and marketing groups and strengthening the management function of group members, production and marketing scale and efficiency can be achieved. Moreover, production and marketing groups must be led toward enterprise business models. Only by doing so can the policy be concretely implemented to upgrade the nation’s agricultural sector.
Agricultural production and marketing groups received counseling services.
Agricultural production and marketing groups commenced.
Top ten agricultural production and marketing groups award.
Assist agricultural production and marketing groups to utilize modern production facilities.