The Cabinet on May 7 approved the “quality agriculture development program” package which was proposed by the Council of Agriculture and aimed at enhancing the quality of Taiwan’s agriculture.
Premier Chao-shiuan Liu said that agriculture is Taiwan’s most traditional sector and also its most modern green service sector, and he noted that quality agriculture will have substantial intangible economic effects in the future.
Product safety is strongly emphasized in this program, product’s safety safeguard people’s health. While measures like rural village revitalization, coastal area renewal, and forest planting all benefit the environment and recreational tourism, all of which help relax people’s minds and bodies.
The measures of the program also help stabilize society’s development, reduce the fluctuation of the economic cycles, and create value that cannot be measured by GDP numbers, the Premier said.
In developing “quality agriculture, “ one of Taiwan’s emerging industries, the government hopes to develop high quality products, expand new products markets, attract young people to participate in the revitalization of rural villages, and ultimately leave a beautiful living environment for future generations, the Premier said.
As the Premier pointed out, quality agriculture is founded on high-quality researchers, diversified ecological environment, and good information and telecommunication technologies.
The program utilizes new technologies like gene selection and vaccine technology development, as well as promotes new management models like “Small Landlords, Large Tenant Farmers “ and brand marketing strategies to expand markets such as high-income households, senior citizens, and people who pursue healthy lifestyles.
The program covers three major areas: healthful agriculture for all people, excellent agriculture driven by technology, and Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability (LOHAS) agriculture that offers comfortable and trendy lifestyles.
Healthful agriculture will construct a model of safety crop management, promote GAP (Good Agricultural Practices) and CAS (Certificated Agricultural Standards) certification, and develop a production and distribution traceability tracking system. It will also encourage organic agriculture development, to further safeguard product safety from the farm to the dinner table.
The government intends to turn Taiwan Sugar Corp. farms and large plots of fallow land into dedicated organic farming zones and set up multiple marketing channels for agricultural products, such as local farmers’ markets, private sector purchases by big business firms, and e-business.
By 2012, it is estimated that 3,000 production groups will have GAP certificates and 5,000 hectares will be devoted to organic products production.
The total farming area with GAP or organic certificates where all produce can be tracked will increase from the current 25,000 hectares today to 50,000 hectares within 4 years, in the hope of turning Taiwan into a non-toxic island.
As for excellent agriculture, the Premier emphasized that Taiwan’s advantages in logistics and agricultural technologies that are ranked 12th in the world will contribute to this segment.
He pointed out that Taiwan’s orchid seedlings only take 12-18 months to grow to 3.5 inches, which is six months faster than required by species in Japan and the Europe, and Taiwan can breed six of the world’s seven species of grouper and can ship the fish 10 days earlier to China than other Southeast Asian countries.
The Premier also noted that locally farmed crystal red shrimp and angel fish took first places in international competitions.
Excellent agriculture will focus on the development of agricultural biotechnology, orchid growing, grouper and ornamental fish farming, plant seedlings, and livestock and poultry breeding.
The government will set up three incubation centers and construct five commercialization platforms for plant seedlings, aquatic product breeding, safety agriculture, molecular farming, and livestock and poultry breeding.
It will also cooperate with Chung Hsing New Village in central Taiwan to establish an agricultural technology research institute to speed up upstream and downstream integration of agricultural research and development resources.
LOHAS agriculture, another element of quality agriculture, will combine agriculture with tourism to develop in-depth agricultural tours and premium products. The government will establish three 1,000-hectare forest recreational parks in plains areas, four marinas exclusively for yachts, and two demonstration recreational fishing ports.
There will be tours centered around multiple themes, including healthy lifestyles, education, first-hand experience, food appreciation, and relaxation and stress relief, targeting both local and foreign tourists.
Premium agricultural products to be highlighted in this program are Taiwan’s tea, wine, rice, bamboo products, aquatic products, and livestock, with distinctive local traits and hygiene and safety emphasized. Other initiatives include origin labeling so that the local produced products can be differentiated from the imported products.
Locally produced products will be marketed based on industry culture and local customs, and a business model allowing tourists from China to place orders in Taiwan and collect goods in China will be set up.
The Premier said the government will invest NT$24.2 billion (US$730.68 million) in this quality agriculture development program over the four-year period, and he projected output value will increase NT$158.9 billion in 2012.
Out of the total output value, the healthful agriculture segment is expected to account for NT$76 billion.
Excellent agriculture output value in the areas of biotechnology, orchids, grouper, ornamental fish, plant seedlings, and livestock and poultry breeding will account for NT$44.3 billion, and the LOHAS agriculture is expected to achieve an output value of NT$38.6 billion.
The program is expected to create 31,000 job opportunities within four years and boost the economy in rural villages, increase farmers’ incomes, and provide safer products and a better and higher quality living environment for the general public.