The Quality Agriculture Program and Diversification of Value in Agriculture
Promoting healthful agriculture
Constructing a seamless agro-product safety system
Constructing a seamless safety system for agro-products is an ongoing long-term project involving three major aspects: (1) management of the basic environment where the food originates; (2) management of the agricultural production process to ensure that food is safe and healthy; and (3) management of agricultural products. Under these three headings the COA has designated 16 core critical objectives and 47 “main point” tasks.
Under aspect (1), the COA determines safety parameters for the production of agro-products, has created a crop inspection and disease-prevention system, and exerts controls over the materials and equipment used in agriculture. Under aspect (2), we promote systematic cultivation of healthy seedlings, promote the use of standardized crop cultivation models that follow pre-set safety parameters, have set up monitoring systems for pest control and disease prevention, and counsel farmers in the safe use of agro-chemicals. And under aspect (3), we monitor for residues of agro-chemicals, have promoted the adoption of labeling systems that identify and certify safe and high-quality foods, and have set up a public notification system in the event that any health risk or problem is detected.
Promoting certification and traceability systems
■ The GAP produce safety system
The Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) audit and labeling system for safe fruits and vegetables was launched in 1993. It has been very successful and has served as the cornerstone of all of the COA’s subsequent food safety programs. The GAP label includes a nine-digit number allowing the producer to be traced, thereby ensuring responsible production among farmers and peace of mind for consumers. Trust in the program has been built up steadily over time, and the GAP label now serves an important role in market differentiation. As of the end of December 2012, a total of 2,084 fruit and vegetable “production and marketing groups” (PMGs) had passed GAP review and earned the right to use the GAP label. In 2012, these GAP PMGs accounted for 25,000 hectares of land, over 125 different types of fruit and vegetables, about 530,000 metric tons of production volume, and NT$11.28 billion in production value.
To further promote marketing of GAP products, the COA has set up a system of double-packaging for 31 types of GAP fruits and vegetables which are traded through the wholesale markets in Taipei, Sanchong, and Taichung. Total trading volume in 2012 was 20,400 metric tons. We have also arranged to have special GAP product displays or counters set up in 151 locations in chain supermarkets and traditional markets, and brokered contracts between farmers and supermarkets for the former to supply the latter with GAP fruits and vegetables to sell in their outlets. Our goal is to make GAP fruits and vegetables increasingly accessible for consumers.
■ The CAS labeling system for premium agro-products
The COA launched the CAS labeling system for premium agricultural products back in 1989, and it has since won widespread support from agro-businesses and trust from consumers. The CAS label means that the product was produced in hygienic and sanitary conditions, is safe to consume, and is of superior quality. Surveys show that over 82% of consumers recognize the CAS label, and it has become an important reference for day-to-day food shopping.
As of the end of December of 2012, four institutions were accredited by the COA to do CAS certifications of products for quality and safety. Certification services cover 15 categories of products including meat, rice, eggs, seafood, forestry products, and dairy products. Each year these certification organizations make over 900 inspections at factories and producers, and test more than 3,000 samples, working to ensure public trust in the CAS label. As of the end of 2012, 6780 products from 348 producers had won CAS certification, with total production volume in 2012 of 860,000 metric tons and production value in excess of NT$51.6 billion.
■ Development of organic farming
The COA aims to provide citizens with healthful, natural, safe foods. As one aspect of this overall goal, since 1997 we have been actively promoting organic farming. We have adopted a variety of incentives and guidance measures to encourage citizens to operate organic farms. As of the end of December of 2012, there were 14 institutions accredited to inspect and certify organic products, and a total of 2,625 growers, cultivating 5,558 hectares of land, had received certification, as had seven animal husbandry operations. The government has also designated 13 areas as “organic farming special zones”; in 2012 these included 510 hectares of farmland, with total production value of NT$3.33 billion.
For imports of organic foods, when the goods come from countries that regulate and manage their organic farming using standards equivalent to those in Taiwan, the COA has in place procedures to review and approve import documentation and to permit the labeling of the products as organic. In 2011 the COA handled 1,535 cases in which we agreed to labeling of imported cultivated products as organic, with import volume of 9612 metric tons, and a further 32 cases of animal husbandry products, with import volume of 67.3 metric tons.
To ensure the quality of organic products, in 2012 we conducted 2,068 tests of the quality and condition of organic foods, both in the field and at points of sale. The tested items were found to meet relevant standards in 2,049 of these cases (99.1%). Label checks were conducted on 3,275 occasions, with the items found to meet requirements in 3176 cases (97%). Items that failed to meet regulatory standards were immediately removed from shelves, and the cases were turned over to local governments to be handled according to law. Through these measures, the COA works to uphold the rights and interests of consumers.
■ Promotion of a traceability system for agro-products
Under the “Agricultural Production and Certification Act,” the COA has long been promoting a voluntary traceability certification system. As of the end of December of 2012, 12 institutions were accredited to conduct inspections covering eight major categories: general crops, organic crops, products processed from crops, livestock products, poultry products, processed livestock and poultry products, aquaculture products, and processed fisheries products. There are currently 1,169 operators whose certification is still in its validity period. They supply a total of 135 kinds of farm, fisheries, and animal husbandry products, with production value in 2012 of NT$3.99 billion. Each year we test over 2,000 samples of products under this program, with over 99% meeting regulatory requirements.
We are working through the media and publicity measures to raise public awareness of the traceability system, we broker contracts between suppliers and sellers of traceable goods, and we have set up special production zones dedicated exclusively to traceable products. In 2012 an average of 1.13 million labels indicating the traceability of the labeled product were used per month, a major increase of 48% compared to the 770,000 per month used in 2011. These figures suggest that the agro-product traceability system is steadily winning increasing support from consumers.
Appropriate use of pesticides
One problem in the safety of agro-products is that some crops lack authorized protective pesticides, and as a result some farmers use unauthorized pesticides on them in violation of relevant laws. Thus the COA aims to ensure that safe agro-pesticides are made available where needed. To this end, in March of 2009 the COA issued revisions to the “Regulations for Agro-Pesticide Field Trials” and “Crop Grouping and Agro-Pesticide Extension of Authorization Practice Methods” and began issuing new clarifications of which agro-chemicals can be used on which agro-products. On July 31, 2012, we further issued a list of field testing standards for “major crops.” By applying critical representative test data to determine proper methods for agro- pesticide use, we have been solving the problem, which had affected minor crops, of a lack of approved pesticides for their farmers to use. Thus far, 1,689 extensions of agro-pesticides have been announced under the categories of “fruits” and “vegetables.” Meanwhile, the COA has requested that the Department of Health coordinate with our policy and amend 679 maximum residue limits. We have thus solved regulatory problems that led to a lack of available pesticides affecting 123 crops and 78 pests, while taking into account the requirements of plant protection and the safety and healthfulness of agro-products.
Appropriate use of fertilizer
In the face of rising prices for energy and food, the COA has formed a “Task Force on Rational Use of Fertilizer” with the aim of advising farmers on how to reduce the amounts of fertilizer they use. In 2012, the various agricultural improvement stations of the COA, together with the Taiwan Banana Research Institute, held 550 seminars and lectures on fertilizer use (with 28,600 attendees), set up 311 demonstration farms (covering 310 hectares) to demonstrate rational fertilizer use, and held 113 events in the field demonstrating successful cases of reduced fertilizer use. They also have been offering soil fertility testing and plant nutritional diagnosis, providing farmers with free analysis of the fertilizer needs of their crops, and teaching farmers the optimum amounts of fertilizer to use and the most effective ways to apply it; in 2012 these services were applied in a total of 42,900 cases.
The COA also devotes great effort to raising public awareness of rational fertilizer use. In 2012, we were able, through events for the media, to publicize ideas for rational fertilizer use, and also successful examples of their application, a total of 250 separate times. Also, experts produced a total of 148 articles on related issues (e.g. rational fertilizer use according to various crop types, correct application techniques, and ways to deal with soil problems) which were published in agriculture-related periodicals or distributed at “theme halls” dedicated to rational fertilizer use.
We have seen reductions of 26.3% in the use of chemical fertilizers at the 311 demonstration sites, for a total reduction of 58 metric tons in fertilizer used, and a savings of NT$1.67 million in costs for materials.
Excellence in Agriculture
Technology innovation and R&D
The COA supports the development of innovative technologies and promotes their application in upgrading and transforming Taiwan’s agricultural industries, in stabilizing food supply, and in ensuring environmental sustainability. The research teams for the ten key agricultural industries—such as fruit, flowers, animal vaccines, and so on—continued their work in 2012, and we also continued to work through cross-disciplinary and inter-agency cooperation to promote innovations that will increase efficiency and quality, increase production acreage and value, and increase exports of agro-products. COA-backed R&D plays a vital pathfinder role for rural industries.
Major R& D outputs in 2012 included: ( 1) innovative technologies for maintaining peel color of lichee, storage of papaya, improving the quality of summer guava fruits, and adjusting the flowering of the orchid variety Dendrobium nobile; (2) technologies for screening, breeding, rearing, and transport of high-quality grouper fry; (3) biomedical authentication systems for experimental animals, including specific- pathogen-free pigs, rabbits, and chickens, as well as minimum-disease (MD) miniature pigs, rabbits, geese, and ducks; (4) loop-mediated isothermal amplification (LAMP) kits for detection of pathogens in orchids, groupers, ornamental fish, plant seedings, etc.; (5) microbial pesticides.
Industrialization of science and technology
The COA supports the construction and operation of agricultural science parks. The COA’s Pingtung Agricultural Biotechnology Park has approved investments by 78 firms totaling NT$6.01 billion; 54 of them have started operations. In the park, construction of an Asia-Pacific aquatic-pet operations center was completed in 2012.
The COA has also provided subsidies to support two major projects being implemented by local governments. (1) The Tainan Orchid Biotechnology Park project, by the Tainan City government. Phases 1 through 5 of the project have been completed, so that as of the end of 2012 84% of the eventual total space for rent was available for use. Already 89 firms have received approval to move into the park, with investments totaling NT$5.53 billion; 48 of these firms have already begun production. (2) The National Flower Park project, by the Changhua County government. The park includes a specific area for producing ornamental seedlings and trees, which enjoys 100% occupancy and where 26 firms have begun operations.
Under the “Regulations for the Promotion of Research and Development by Private Agricultural Enterprises,” the COA has since 2007 been promoting special technology projects. Through the end of 2012, 42 industry special technology projects had been undertaken, with private agro-businesses contributing a total of NT$213 million in R&D funding.
Application of information technology to agriculture
The COA works to integrate and apply information technology into agricultural development through intelligent systems, in order to strengthen the competitiveness of Taiwan’s rural economic sector. Some of the major projects have included:
■ Establishing an RFID breeding management system that is weather-durable and can be reliably used in the field: An RFID system has been developed enabling mobile field equipment to deal with real-time tasks such as recording breed pedigrees and sending back photographs. This system uses digital recognition technology to contribute to maintaining the accuracy and timeliness of experimental results, achieving the goals of saving labor, saving time, and maximizing precision.
■ Building of RFID floor-feeding breeding-poultry automated egg-collection facilities: This type of facility should help traditional poultry farmers cope with the shortage of manpower for collecting eggs. It will also assist poultry managers by using systems analysis to identify and eliminate subjects with a high rate of low-quality eggs, thereby improving inheritance and raising quality, efficiency, hatchability, and production profits.
■ Utilizing information technology to publicize success stories of rural community rejuvenation in order to promote rural tourism: The COA has created a special mobile travel-guide APP called “Bravo! Rural Villages” as well as corresponding Chinese and English websites (http://app.swcb.gov.tw/), Facebook fan clubs, and short videos for Youtube, telling the fascinating stories behind 24 rural rejuvenation communities and their unique local products. These cloud services introduce these communities to citizens and attract people to visit them for in-depth travel experiences.
■ Creating two exclusive APPs, which are two versions of the “Debris Flow Disaster Prevention Information Network,” one full version and one images-only version. Using cloud computing technology, these APPs provide convenient access to information related to disaster prevention, such as debris-flow warning signs, real time data from debris-flow observation stations, and up-to-the-minute weather forecasts. The map APP offers a quick guide to indicating the location of nearby shelters, thereby improving efficiency of evacuation from at- risk areas.
■ Strengthening international exchange: Taiwan hosted the 8th Asian Conference for Information Technology in Agriculture (AFITA/WCCA 2012), with a total of 224 participants from 17 countries presenting 113 papers. The COA alone presented 41 papers exploring trends in the development and applications of information technology in agriculture. Through this event we were able to share our knowledge with professionals and scholars from many other countries and also upgrade our own R&D.
Upgrading of the farm, fisheries, and animal husbandry industries
The COA oversees a system under which some farmers grow products under contract for specific processing firms. In 2012 this system was used for 368 hectares of grains, 100 hectares of crops for medicinal or health uses, and 425 tea manufacturing operations (1800 hectares of tea plantations). We also supported “premium quality orchards” for 14 fruits, including mangoes, covering 5,150 hectares of land; 25 “special zones” for premium-quality fruit, covering 840 hectares; and 122 hectares of greenhouse or net facilities.
In 2012, the COA established energy efficiency standards for one-horsepower “paddlewheel aerators” used in aquaculture, and announced a list of 13 manufacturers of energy-saving models (including 19 model numbers), providing a reference for aquaculture operators and leading the aquaculture industry toward “green” development based on low energy consumption. We also acted to improve conservation and management of shark resources. On January 19, we issued the “Directions on the Disposal of the Fins of Shark Catches of Fishing Vessels,” working to eliminate the practice of just cutting off the fins of captured sharks and discarding the carcass. Our goal is to ensure responsible and sustainable exploitation of shark resources.
The COA continued in 2012 to provide guidance and information to upgrade the pig and poultry industries. As for pigs, farms that have received advice have increased efficiency by an average of over 10%. We also completed screening for genetic markers of porcine stress syndrome in 3,950 blood samples, with the aim of improving the quality of domestically produced pork. As for the poultry industry, in 2012 we constructed eight integrated systems for washing and disinfecting egg crates, one site each for greenhouse and canvass-enclosed coops for free- range breeding chickens; and three egg-collection facilities for floor-fed ducks raised for their eggs. These will upgrade operational efficiency at poultry farms.
Protection and application of intellectual property rights
The COA has continued to operate the Office for Agricultural Technology Industry (AgriTI), which oversees technology assessments, applications of intellectual property rights, and technology transfer and licensing, and also serves as a facilitator for inter-disciplinary cooperation and biz-matching. In 2012 AgriTI assisted 11 firms with technologies that have commercial potential to plan new commodity production or new business activities.
Also in 2012, using a newly constructed operating mechanism for developing agricultural R&D into new products or new business activities, the COA promoted four projects (including biz-matching for whole factory export/package plant export for full production of beef tomatoes, certified as safe), stimulating nearly NT$100 million in investment. The COA also organized the Agriculture Pavilion at the 2012 Taipei International Invention Show and TechnoMart, where we exhibited 56 results from agricultural R&D projects and demonstrated technologies with potential commercial applications. Finally, we provided specialized training in the agro-technology field to 150 persons.
The COA has devoted great effort to the protection and application of IPRs in agro- technology. In 2012, we (a) assisted in 50 IPR cases, including 25 patents and 25 new plant varieties, helping the applicants to obtain IPR certification; (b) carried out 111 cases of technology transfer; and (c) earned NT$76.46 million in income from license fees and royalties, the highest amount in history and an increase of 9.8% over 2011.
Agriculture of Health and Sustainability
Development of recreational farms and fishing harbors
A major COA goal is to encourage growth of the rural tourism industry. To this end we have (a) organized information related to recreational farms in a website (www.ezgo. gov.tw) , (b) worked to construct a welcoming and accessible environment for tourism in rural areas, (c) formed business alliances between firms in the tourism and transport sectors, and (d) devised and marketed a variety of themed tourism and leisure activities and itineraries (e.g. “Sea of flower in Xinshe”). Moreover, a total of 74 “recreational agriculture areas” have been designated and announced, and we have assisted 38 leisure farms to attain certification for the high quality of their service. There were 18.5 million visits to rural communities in 2012, including more than 213,000 visits by foreign tourists (the number of foreign visitors increasing by 17% over 2011). The agro-tourism industry produced NT$8.51 billion in value in 2012.
The COA has made a special effort to attract visitors to fishing communities, by drawing attention to interesting cultural traditions and leisure activities specific to these communities. In 2012 we held 43 events related to such unique local cultural or leisure features, with 600,000 attendees. We also produced 6 video programs introducing fishing and marine ecology tours, and devised package tours for two fishing communities. In 2012 there were 8.22 million visits involving the seaside recreational and fishing industries, including 850,000 passengers on recreational fishing boats (this figure includes 190,000 passengers for whale-watching). The value of these industries in 2012 was approximately NT$2.42 billion.
Development of forest parks
In the Danongdafu Forest Park, we have completed 12 kilometers of walking trails, 10 kilometers of bicycle trails, three hectares of open meadows for activities, 11 hectares of “flower seas,” an ecological pond (in the shape of a crescent moon), a “rainbow fishing bridge,” and three bicycle trails linking the park area with local communities. In addition, we have organized a variety of activities in Danongdafu Forest Park, including bird-watching, driftwood painting for schoolchildren and community residents, and community ecological activities for the farmwork rest period. Since the opening of the park in 2011 there have been 120,000 visits.
In the Aogu Wetland and Forest Park, we have constructed five hectares of manmade wetlands, 23 kilometers of bicycle and walking trails, and various facilities for bird-watching; as well as opened the Seaview Pavilion and the Dongshi Nature and Ecology Exhibition Hall to the public. We have also assisted in training 21 local community guides, completed 17 public forums, held guided tour activities, and developed local industry related to eco-tourism. On November 24 of 2012, we held a special event for the formal opening of the Aogu Wetland and Forest Park, attracting 38,000 visits.
Development of forest eco-tourism In 2012 the COA managed 27 projects related to construction of public facilities and improvement of scenery in 18 forest recreation areas, as well as inspected such areas to make sure that they are accessible environments for all, including the handicapped and elderly. We promoted 16 eco-tourism itineraries, and organized 146 events that included (a) interpretation, (b) education and training, and (c) promotion and marketing, providing 4.01 million eco-tourism opportunities and providing guide/educational services to 800,000 persons. We also supported the development of eight nature education centers and designed environmental education programs that drew 115,000 participants. Also in 2012, we (a) managed 30 projects in national forests for construction or improvement of trails, maintained or repaired 150 kilometers of trails, and completed hardware infrastructure, serving approximately 3.6 million visitors engaged in landscape viewing, mountaineering, hiking, and nature exploration; (b) gave four courses to teach people how to plan hikes and how to navigate surely and safely through mountainous areas, with 360 participants; (c) organized 20 education and training programs on environmentally-friendly hiking, and offered training for guides and group leaders, as part of our general program to teach people to “leave no trace” in outdoors activities; (d) held a national conference on mountain climbing and mountain hiking, which included a competition for the best ideas and experiences from hikers; and (e) arranged for cooperative partnerships between government agencies and non-governmental organizations or societies.
Development of premium agro-products
The COA has been promoting a labeling system for teas that identifies their place of origin and verifies traceability; in 2012 we approved 730,000 labels. We also held the “2012 Tea Processing Plant Environmental and Hygienic Safety Evaluation,” with 425 safe and hygienic tea processing venues with annual production value of NT$1.86 billion. Furthermore, we counseled farmers groups in five tea growing zones on the design of more “art of tea” aesthetic and creative packaging, working to integrate “tea culture” into branding and marketing, thereby increasing the market value of Taiwan tea products.
■ Wines and liqueurs
As the economic structure of rural areas has evolved, we have guided 24 agricultural organizations in establishing wineries. In 2012 they produced 181,000 liters, with production value of NT$168 million. Selected wine or liqueur products took one gold and three silver medals at international competitions. The COA also conducted its own assessments of local wineries, designating 12 wineries as “premium quality” and awarding prizes to 16 individual products.
■ High-quality classic rice
The COA has been working to package high-quality rice into products for the gift and souvenir industry. To this end, we have brought together established producers of high quality rice (e.g. producers from special rice production-and-marketing zones, manufacturers with CAS certification, or organic rice production-and-marketing groups) with experts in cultural and creative industries, local culture and history, and creative innovation, to develop “rice gift boxes.” These products are enabling rice producers to penetrate the gift and souvenir market. Production value of these items in 2012 was about NT$808 million, an increase of 18% over 2011.
■ Bamboo niche products
The COA has overseen R&D to develop, to date, 35 bamboo products, including a bamboo-charcoal energy-storage element, a burning system using torrefied bamboo- powder, and skin whitening products using bamboo essence. Production value in 2012 surpassed NT$3.5 billion. In 2012 creative bamboo designs from Taiwan won an iF Design Award (from Germany). Also, the COA has coordinated the use of a collective trademark “Made in Taiwan Charcoal” (used on 32,000 domestically produced bamboo charcoal products in 2012), and we also founded the “Made in Taiwan Charcoal Product Exhibition Hall.”
■ Choice fisheries products
As part of our efforts to draw attention to premium-quality seafood from Taiwan, in 2012 the COA held the third “Premium Seafood” selection; only 92 products met the criteria to even be considered, of which, in a rigorous process, we selected only 20. These are now allowed to use a special label, “Haiyan” (“Seafood Banquet”), to identify themselves. In 2012, total production value of all products allowed to use this label was about NT$2 billion. The products are divided into five major categories: super-low temperature, frozen, refrigerated, dried, and canned.
■ Premium quality livestock products
In 2012 the COA (a) conducted inspections and tests for quality at 431 meat sellers certified under the“Taiwan Fresh Pork”(TFP) campaign; (b) provided guidance to producers of domestic beef to open six demonstration and sales points; (c) awarded certification to 46 shops selling goat meat under the labeling system for domestic goat meat; (d) provided advice to the Yufeng Zhenggang Capon brand, which shows significant market potential; and (e) researched and drafted CAS standards for down, and set criteria for differential labeling for domestically produced down, in an effort to promote the sale of premium domestic down.
■ Processed rice
In an effort to increase product diversification in the rice industry and appeal to consumers who seek novelty and variety, in 2012 the COA cooperated with academic and research organizations to develop 12 kinds of products using rice-husk flour (including rice noodles and pre-mixed baking flour). Technology transfer was completed to four manufacturers, who began mass production for the market.