The GAP produce safety system
A main COA goal is to improve the safety and quality of produce (fruits and vegetables). In order to encourage farmers to use pesticides safely and to provide consumers with the option to buy clearly identifiable safe fruits and vegetables, the Council of Agriculture (COA) has continued to promote the Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) produce-safety labeling system, to market GAP products, and to improve quality control, inspection, and personnel training. As of the end of December of 2010, the COA had helped 1,765 production-and-marketing groups (PMGs) to pass GAP review, accounting for 40% of the 4339 produce PMGs in the country. This brought total GAP-certified land area to 21,817 hectares, accounting for 20.5% of the 106,591 hectares of all the PMGs in the country. Total production volume of the certified PMGs was about 450,000 metric tons.
The COA has also established quality criteria and packaging standards for 31 types of GAP fruits and vegetables, and has provided guidance in adopting double packaging for supplying the produce auction markets in Taipei, Sanchong, and Taichung. Total volume traded for the year was 17,660 metric tons, with the trading price being about 20% higher on average than that for non-GAP produce. Finally, special GAP produce displays have been set up in 196 chain supermarkets to make these products more easily available to consumers.
The CAS labeling system for premium agricultural products
In order to ensure the sanitation and safety of domestic agricultural products and processed food products, to raise overall quality, and to protect consumers, in 1989 the COA initiated the CAS labeling system for inspection, certification, and labeling of superior agro-products. Over the years, the system has won acceptance and support from both producers and consumers. Today 82% of consumers recognize the CAS label and understand that it means that the product is safe and of superior quality. The label is now an important indicator that citizens refer to when buying agro-products.
Four institutions have been accredited by the COA to do certifications of products for quality and safety, and they provide validation services for 15 categories of products including meat, rice, eggs, seafood, forestry products, and dairy products. The certification bodies make 900 follow-up examinations a year at factories and producers, and test more than 3,000 samples per year, working to ensure public trust in the CAS label. As of the end of December of 2010, 6,388 products from 330 producers had obtained CAS certifications, with total production volume of 750,000 metric tons and total production value over NT$45 billion.
Development of organic farming
Many steps have been taken to promote organic agriculture, including: assisting organic farmers to apply for certification; establishing organic farming special zones; holding courses and training sessions on operation and management of organic agriculture; assisting in the creation of farmers' markets for organic farming; promoting organic meals in schools and corporations; and marketing, including e-commerce.
For imports of organic foods, when the goods come from countries that regulate and manage their organic agriculture using standards equivalent to those of Taiwan, the COA has in place procedures and guidelines for reviewing the documentation of such imports and approving the use of labels identifying these goods as organic. As of the end of December of 2010, the COA had issued a total of 1,263 documents agreeing to labeling of imported goods as organic, for a total weight of 6,468 metric tons.
Domestically, the COA has accredited 13 institutions to inspect and verify organic products, and in 2010 a total of 1,778 producers were audited and met the relevant standards, with certification covering a total of 4,034 hectares. To ensure the quality of organic products, 1,853 tests were made of product quality, both in the field and at points of sale, with 1,841 (99.4%) found to be up to standard. In addition, 3,192 product label reviews were conducted, with 3,082 (96.6%) passing. Products that violated regulations were immediately removed from shelves and recalled, and local governments investigated responsibility under the law. These measures ensure that the interests of consumers of organic products are protected.
Traceability of agro-products
Under the "Agricultural Production and Certification Act," the COA has been promoting a traceability system for the production and marketing of agricultural products. As of the end of December of 2010, 13 institutions had been accredited to conduct inspections covering eight major fields: general crops, organic crops, processed products from crops, livestock products, poultry products, processed livestock and poultry products, aquaculture products, and processed fisheries products. There are currently 1331 operators whose certification is still in its validity period, and they provide 141 types of farm, fisheries, and animal products. A total of eight million items with the logo indicating participation in the tracking system have gone on sale in the marketplace, with a total value of production of NT$3.9 billion.
A seamless food safety system
In order to ensure the safety of agricultural products, the COA has designed a seamless food safety management system to protect consumers. There are three aspects to this system. Under "Management of Basic Environment," we have improved safety standards for agricultural products, established a crop inspection system, and strengthened controls over materials and equipment used for agricultural production. Under "Management of Healthy Agricultural Production," we have improved the system for cultivation of healthy seedlings, promoted standardized models for crop cultivation, strengthened monitoring systems for pest control, and counseled farmers in the safe use of agrochemicals. Finally, under "Management of Agricultural Product Safety," we have established a safety-assurance branding system and assisted farmers to adopt this system, strengthened the pesticide residue monitoring system, set up check points within marketing and sales channels, and established a risk notification system. By implementing these controls and overseeing all possible risks, the COA believes that we are achieving the goal of seamless safety management.
Appropriate use of agrochemicals
Another part of ensuring food safety is seeing that agro-pesticides are neither lacking when needed, nor abused when not needed. To this end, the COA, taking into consideration scientific principles and the effectiveness and safety of usage, has promulgated documents amending the "Regulations for Agro-Pesticide Field Trials" and "Extrapolation of Spectra by Crop Grouping and Pest Grouping." Thus far 1,073 spectra of agro-pesticides have been announced. Meanwhile,the COA has requested the Department of Health (DOH) to coordinate with this policy and amend 426 maximum residue limits (MRL). We have thus solved most of the problems from lack of agro-pesticides where these are needed, and taken into account the requirements of plant protection and safety of agricultural production.
EXCELLENCE IN AGRICULTURE
Innovative research and development
With Taiwan's advantages in agricultural science and technology, the COA has been promoting innovative market-oriented R&D in order to make Taiwan an island of superior agricultural technology. The "Research Teams for the Ten Major Agricultural Industries" have continued to conduct research for advancing the development of these industries toward high efficiency and high quality. The goals are to double production acreage, production value and export value. Facing the challenge of climate change, the COA has also been integrating and strengthening technologies for monitoring, assessment, and adaptation to assist agrobusinesses in upgrading their capacity to cope with adverse conditions.
Main R&D achievements in 2010 included: (a) Increasing agricultural production safety through the development and manufacture of dry pellets for melon fruit fly control and polyvalent inactivated bacteria against Riemerella anatipestifer infection; (b) Raising production efficiency through technological developments such as sugar-apple lighting treatments and tea crawler-pruning machines; (c) Promoting emerging industries, such as turn-key solutions for mass production of Babylonia areolata; (d) Breeding new varieties to increase competitiveness, including egg-laying Brown Tsaiya Ducks, paddy rice, lettuce, chrysanthemums, statice lavender, and daylily; (e) Developing mass production techniques to add economic value, such as new technology for mass production of a vaccine for silkworms infected with the Bombyx mori nuclear polyhedrosis virus (BmNPV), Camptothecin production from Nothapodytes nimmoniana with hairy root culture by bioreactor, and extraction of the components of fruiting bodies of the medical fungus Antrodia cinnamomea; (f) Completing certifications of laboratories and technologies to meet international standards for conducting transgenic crop testing, detecting viruses, and doing ecological and toxicological assessment of pesticides, for safeguarding the environment.
Industrialization of science and technology
The COA has continued to promote agricultural science parks, with the aim of making Taiwan an Asia-Pacific center for agricultural biotechnology and subtropical floriculture. The Pingtung Agricultural Biotechnology Park has approved investments by 58 firms, totaling NT$3.55 billion. Of these firms, 43 have started operations. In addition, an R&D center has been established for breeding and export of ornamental fish and fish fry for aquaculture.
Infrastructure work has been completed on Phases 1, 2, and 3 of the Taiwan Orchid Biotechnology Park in Tainan. Fifty firms have already received approval to move into the park, which is 100% occupancy of available land. Of these, 33 firms have already begun production. In Changhua County, the National Flower Park special zone for ornamental seedlings and trees has 23 firms that have begun operations, for an occupancy rate of 78%. Under the "Regulations for the Promotion of Agricultural Private Enterprise Engaging in Research and Development," eight industrial S&T projects were approved, making a total of 27 such projects from 2007 to 2010, with private agribusinesses contributing NT$108 million in R&D funding.
Application of information technology to agriculture
The COA has promoted the adoption by private firms of RFID technology in the management of stud farms for cattle, goats, and deer, which should reduce management and manpower costs. The COA has also integrated three technologies—the wireless sensor network, the global system for mobile information transmission, and the geographic information system—to survey and track the Oriental fruit fly, as well as to do real-time monitoring of water quality in the Penghu maritime habitat. These methods substitute for some of the manpower used in traditional human surveying; allow full understanding of the distribution of pests and of water quality; and provide early warning to take necessary preventive measures to minimize harm and protect the environment.
The COA has also created an integrated platform for the production and marketing information by bringing together various databanks (including the agricultural exports statistics system, the agricultural trading conditions and price monitoring system, and local price analysis). This platform offers integrated information—local prices, trading volume, and import and export volume—on 44 major agroproducts. This allows an immediately grasp of the production and marketing situation of these crops at any time, as reference in adjusting supply and demand.
Upgrading of the farm, fisheries, and livestock industries
The COA has provided guidance to growers undertaking contract production for industry on 848 hectares of superior grains and 250 hectares of crops for medicinal or health uses; guided 137 tea production and marketing groups, covering 1,660 hectares, to participate in factory-farm cooperation and tea plantation health management; promoted the establishment of 4,215 hectares of superior fruit-producing orchards for 13 kinds of fruits including mangoes; and completed 83 hectares of facilities for vegetables and 39 for flowers.
We have also been promoting a program for multiplying the production value of grouper fish, undertaken reconstruction of equipment for supplying and draining water from aquaculture ponds, set up a liquefied natural gas cooling system for the comprehensive supply of seawater, promoted saltwater aquaculture, and promoted the transformation and upgrading of the aquaculture industry. We have also promoted the raising of ornamental fish as a major new export, held one exhibition for the ornamental-fish industry, and participated in four international exhibits of marine pets in 2010, with the aim of raising the industry's international competitiveness.
The COA has set up a guidance and information system for hog production, raising management efficiency by more than 5%; completed screening for genetic markers of porcine stress syndrome, meat quality, and lean mass in 4167 blood samples obtained from stocks of pig breeding farms; provided guidance to introduce labeling for superior-quality dairy products; guided private operators in setting up 60 new-style sealed negative-pressure environmentally controlled poultry barns; and promoted a contract model for raising poultry that now reaches over 90% of broiler chickens and over 70% of free-range chickens and of ducks raised for their meat.
Protection and application of intellectual property rights
The COA has amended the "Regulations for Scientific and Technological Research and Development Results Ownership and Utilization by the Council of Agriculture, Executive Yuan" and established standard operating procedures for the management of patents and trademarks and the publishing of R&D results. The COA has continued to operate the Office for Agricultural Technology Industry (AgriTI) for marketing agricultural technologies with commercial potential, promoting technology transfer and licensing, and bridging disciplines. The COA has also offered an inter-disciplinary training course in agricultural S&T and trained a total of 150 persons from the Council and its affiliated agencies and from industry.
In 2010, the COA held the Agrotechnology Trading Exhibition and participated in the Taipei International Invention Show and TechnoMart, demonstrating 91 and 30 agrotechnologies, respectively. In addition, the COA participated in the 2010 Asian Seed Congress where it exhibited 46 new plant varieties developed by the COA.
Achievements in intellectual property and utilization of R&D results included: (1) 59 cases of intellectual property (including 33 patents, 3 trademarks, and 23 plant varieties), an increase of 15.7% in comparison to 2009; (2) 129 cases of technology transfer, an increase of 25.2% over 2009; (3) NT$63.19 million in income from R&D.
The Rural Regeneration Act was promulgated by the president on August 4, 2010. The COA, besides setting to work immediately to research and draft bylaws required by the Act, has also undertaken an information campaign so that government agencies, rural communities, and citizens can fully understand the content of this law. At the same time we have created a comprehensive implementation mechanism, including training at the local community level, surveys of assets and resources, and assistance to rural communities in drafting concrete programs for rural regeneration.
Thus far we have held 1013 meetings, involving 129,803 people, to explain the law. We have also laid out plans for rural regeneration for ten districts, done 256 projects for rural community construction, undertaken 238 cases of improvement of the basic environment in rural areas, and given 28,115 person-sessions of training for rural regeneration in 524 communities.
In addition, the COA has launched a program to instruct people in the work of rejuvenation of fishing communities. We have so far held 49 classes involving 2,489 people, and have assisted fishing communities in creating rejuvenation infrastructure plans in nine locations. As of the end of December of 2010, 1,212 communities or neighborhoods had participated in training, for a total of 63,622 person-sessions. Training has reached one-fourth of all rural communities, allowing for comprehensive promotion of rural regeneration.
Development of recreational farms and fisheries
In other measures to bring people seeking health and simplicity to rural areas, the COA has announced the establishment of 71 recreational agriculture districts, improved and integrated the rural-recreational information network, and worked to construct a comfortable environment for tourism in rural communities. In addition, we have: (a) organized alliances among travel businesses to promote 102 different theme tours (walking tours, health tours, floriculture appreciation tours, etc.) at rural-recreational venues; (b) organized various regionally integrated tourist activities and events (e.g. coastal travel in Hualien and Taitung); (c) participated in 15 domestic or international travel fairs, attracting 12 million visits (including 140,000 by foreigners, double the figure from 2009), and creating economic value in related industries of NT$6.5 billion; (d) organized 49 rural lifestyle events (especially local industries and the cultural events related to them) as well as 127 cultural seminars; (e) guided the refinement of 67 rural souvenirs and gifts that illustrate the special features of local rural culture and also have market value; and (f) organized a total of 154 cooking groups for homemakers in rural areas to develop local culinary specialties and enrich the possibilities for rural tourism.
The COA has produced and broadcast 33 programs advertising 39 tourist itineraries in the recreational fishery industry; organized 25 events around fisheries culture and related local festivals and celebrations; and taken a total of 850,000 visitors on tourist activities in the open sea, including 210,000 for whale-watching, creating roughly NT$2.155 billion in economic value for the coastal recreational fisheries industry.
Development of forest parks
The COA is utilizing more than 1000 hectares of land in three locations (Danong/Dafu in Hualien County, Dongshi/Aogu in Chiayi County, and Linhou/Silin in Pingtung County) for afforestation. Under current plans, all three are designated as "forest parks." The main goals are to strengthen the plains ecology and environment and also increase space for leisure and recreation.
Planning has been completed for all the zones. The Danong/Dafu area has been designated as a "LOHAS Forest Park," to be developed as a multi-functional zone for leisure, healthy lifestyles, organic production, environmental therapy, and local culture, combined with railroad sightseeing and walking tours. The Dongshi/Aogu area has been designated as an international wetlands park, serving as a window on coastal and woodland resources and on migratory bird routes, with its main purposes being environmental education and wetlands conservation. Finally, the Linhou/Silin area will center on the Mt. Dawu low-altitude forest, which will serve as an ecological zone at the core of restoration of the environment, and will also be a cultural zone for creative industries and a travel destination for visitors to experience local culture. Infrastructure projects are already under way in all three areas.
Development of forest eco-tourism
Another aspect of linking rural areas with "lifestyles of health and simplicity" is to encourage people to come to forests for leisure. In 2010 the COA completed 29 projects related to construction of public facilities or scenery improvement in 18 national forest recreation areas, as well as inspected the areas to make sure they are accessible to the handicapped and elderly. We also established nature centers in eight locations, repaired or renovated 125 kilometers of trails in national forests, developed and promoted 16 eco-travel itineraries or routes (providing 2.85 million eco-tourism opportunities, with 515,000 persons served by guide services), and undertook 117 separate events to raise the visibility of forest eco-tourism.
The COA has also (a) carried on with the middle phase of the ongoing program "Leave No Trace," devoting efforts to building consensus and strengthening relations with our partners in this program and promoting it among both government agencies and private enterprises; (b) organized 10 "trail working holidays", recruiting more than 180 trail volunteers and training 15 persons who showed potential to be team leaders; (c) organized a national "trail arts and literary" competition, receiving 333 works of art related to forest ecology from the public, broadening and deepening the experience of citizens participating in forest eco-tourism; and (d) continued with implementation of a ten-year trail inspection and upgrading project, providing a model and foundation for comprehensive and high-quality improvements in the future.
DEVELOPMENT OF PREMIUM AGROPRODUCTS
The COA has been doing branding campaigns for Taiwan-made premium teas, and especially is targeting the market for high-end gifts. We have also been promoting a traceability system for tea products and have lent advice on how to get certificates of geographical origin; thus far a total of 420,000 labels and certificates have been issued. The COA has also counseled ten organizations about upgrading tea packaging. In particular, we are working to integrate "tea culture" and "the story of tea" into packaging and marketing. Finally, we organized activities such as the 2010 Tawan International Tea Expo and the 2010 Packaging Design Awards for Premium Taiwan Teas to enhance the image of Taiwan teas and raise their visibility to consumers.
Farm-brewed wine and liqueurs
To promote production of local wines and liqueurs, the COA has provided guidance to 25 "Farm Wineries" with annual production volume reaching 166,000 liters (production value of NT$120 million). Of these, 13 have passed the evaluation process and been accredited under the program. Four types of wines or liqueurs made by these firms won prizes at the 2010 Concours Mondial Bruxelles and the 2010 International Spirits Awards in Germany.
The COA has provided guidance to 50 rice producers who already had CAS certification of their rice and who are also in "special production and marketing zones" to rigorously select their finest rice and package it in elegant gift boxes. A design competition was held and 20 products were selected in two main categories: "visiting gifts" and "wedding gifts." We are now developing a market for these products through integrated marketing and exhibition activities.
The COA has developed LOHAS ("lifesyles of health and simplicity") 3C products made from bamboo, and has applied long- and short-fiber manufacturing techniques that use bamboo charcoal to create 35 high-quality products with commercial possibilities. We have also developed various technologies using bamboo, including the world's first rotating biological contactor for use on bamboo bio-carriers, with market value surpassing NT$2.5 billion. Finally, we have established the "Made-in-Taiwan Charcoal" collective trademark in an effort to create a common brand for Taiwan's carbonized bamboo for international marketing purposes.
Choice fisheries products
The COA has selected 22 types of products to be marketed as premium seafood. The annual production value of these products, which carry a special Chinese-language label to certify their status and identify them for consumers, is NT$1.2 billion.
Safe and high-quality livestock products
The COA conducts inspections and tests for quality at 433 stalls certified to produce under the "Taiwan Fresh Pork" marketing campaign. It has also guided operations at seven domestic makers of beef to open outlets for the exhibition of their products. Finally, the COA has been promoting a system of "domestic goat meat certification labels," with 40 operators thus far having received certification.