The Council of Agriculture is the competent authority on the agricultural, forestry, fishery, animal husbandry and food affairs in Taiwan. Its responsibilities include guiding and supervising provincial and municipal offices in these areas. Under the council there are Department of Planning, Department of Animal Industry , Department of Farmers' Services, Department of International Affairs, Department of Science and Technology, Department of Irrigation and Engineering , Secretariat, Personnel Office, Accounting Office, Civil Service Ethics Office, Legal Affairs Committee, Petitions and Appeals Committee and Information Management Center respectively in charge of related affairs.
Historically an agriculture-based country, the Republic of China has centered its policies on agriculture. Since the beginning of the republic, the agricultural administration office has gone through several changes, but the goal of establishing a sound system has remained unaltered.
When the Nanjing Provisional Government was formed in 1912, the Ministry of Basic Industries was created to be in charge of agriculture, forestry, industry and commerce. It was the nation's first modern agricultural authority. The following year, the Beijing Government was established and the ministry was divided into two offices to oversee agriculture and forestry, and industry and commerce.
In 1914, the two offices were remerged to become the Ministry of Agriculture and Commerce to run agriculture, forestry, fishery, husbandry, industry, commerce and mining.
In 1925 the Nationalist Government was created in Guangzhou and the Ministry of Basic Industries was installed but was renamed the Ministry of Agriculture and Fishery (to administer agriculture, forestry and fishery) at the end of the Northern Expedition when the country was reunified and placed under the Executive Yuan.
In 1930, the Ministry of Agriculture and Fishery and the Ministry of Industry and Commerce were combined to become the Ministry of Basic Industries. As a response to wartime needs when the Sino-Japanese War broke out, the government changed the name of the ministry to the Ministry of Economic Affairs in 1938, with the Department of Agriculture and Forestry under it. Two years later the department was expanded to be the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry.
In April 1941, the Nationalist Government installed the Food Administration to control food resources and distribution between civilians and the armed forces. After the promulgation of the constitution, the country remained war-torn and the government changed the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry to the Agriculture and Forestry Administration in an effort to downsize government organization. When the Nationalist Government retreated to Taiwan, the Department of Agriculture was created under the Ministry of Economic Affairs to be responsible for agricultural affairs and was later renamed the Department of Agriculture and Forestry to increase its functions.
In November 1981, both the structure and functions were further expanded in conformity with economic development and the office was upgraded to be the Agricultural Bureau of the Ministry of Economic Affairs.
When the Sino-Japanese War ended, the government created the Joint Commission on Rural Reconstruction on October 1, 1948 in Nanjing according to an economic agreement signed with the US to rebuild rural areas and revive agriculture. The commission came with the Nationalist Government to Taiwan in 1949. Its experts of both Chinese and foreign nationalities and abundant financial resources made significant contributions in the early and mid stages of Taiwan's rural development.
On September 15, 1978, the US informed the Taiwan government that the agreement was coming to an end and no more Americans would be sent to be members of the Joint Commission on Rural Reconstruction. Six months later, the Sino-American Economic Cooperation Agreement was automatically nullified as part of the agreement and the commission was dismissed on March 15 1979. However, as the government intended to use the Chinese members of the commission to continue agricultural development, the very next day the commission was reorganized and became the Council for Agricultural Planning and Development (CAPD) under the Executive Yuan as the office for agricultural consultation, development and coordination.
On July 20, 1984, the government decided to combine CAPD and the Agricultural Bureau of MOEA to become the Council of Agriculture (COA) to centralize agricultural authority in line with national economic development. On September 20 the same year, the central agricultural administrative office was created, with due authority, and with a sound structure and sufficient funding. The complete agricultural administrative system was established.
Aiming to sustain management of fishery resources and strengthen animal and plant quarantine, the government upgraded the Fishery Department of the COA to become the Fishery Administration on August 1 1998 and part of the staffs from COA's Department of Agriculture and Food and Department of Animal Husbandry and from MOEA's Bureau of Commodity Inspection and Quarantine were reassigned to form the Bureau of Animal and Plant Health Inspection and Quarantine. Hence the nation's fishery policy, fishing rights protection, fishery resources development and animal and plant inspection and quarantine have become more and more complete.
On July 1, 1999, the structure and functions of the Taiwan Provincial Government were readjusted. According to a provisional statute, Taiwan Province was a non-autonomous entity and the provincial government was an outpost of the Executive Yuan. The original Agriculture and Forestry Division and the Food Division of the Taiwan Provincial Government were annexed to become COA's Central Taiwan Office and Second Office and their original subordinate agencies became COA's subordinate agencies. The aim was to unify central and local agricultural authorities and upgrade administrative efficiency.
To minimize the impact on domestic agriculture from Taiwan's joining the WTO, on October 12 2003, the government created the Planning Office for Pingtung Agricultural Biotechnology Park under the COA in hope of accelerating development of hi-tech agriculture and enhance international marketing through the industry cluster effect of the specialized park to amend problems from insufficient efforts and channeling by individual farmers in the past and substantially upgrade the competitiveness of Taiwan's agriculture across the globe.
On January 30, 2004, in response to the reorganization of offices under various councils and ministries at the end of the initial phase of the Taiwan Provincial Government's functional and structural readjustment, COA's Agriculture and Food Division and Central Taiwan Office and Second Office were combined into the Agriculture and Food Agency (AFA). The four original North, Central, South and East Food Administration Divisions were made AFA's branch offices to be responsible for the agricultural development of different regions.
In addition, in line with the passing of the Agricultural Financing Act, the Bureau of Agricultural Financing under the COA was established. Currently there are a total of sixty offices under the COA – twenty-three organizational units and thirty-seven affiliated offices under these units.
An Overview of Agricultural Development in Taiwan
- Agricultural resources
In 2015, Taiwan had 797,000 hectares under cultivation, accounting for 22.1% of its total land area. Most of Taiwan's farms are small-scale and operated by family., The average size of farms is about 1.1 hectares. In 2016, 557,000 people were employed in agriculture, accounting for 5% of the total employed population in Taiwan. The average age of farmers is 62.
- The agricultural economy
In 2015, Taiwan's food self-sufficiency rate was 31.4% (as measured by calories)and the average income of per farm household was NT$1.02 million, of which 23% was from agriculture. Agricultural GDP accounted for about 1.8% of national GDP. If the processed agriproducts and the food and beverage industry are calculated, the share of agricultural GDP will be 7.3%.
- The value of agricultural production
The total value of Taiwan's agricultural production in 2015 was NT$500.9 billion, of which farm crops accounting for 48.8%, forestry for less than 0.1%, livestock for 32.7%, and fishery products for 18.4%.
The production value in 2015 for farm crops, forestry, fisheries and livestock is listed as follows:
(1)The value of production of farm crops was NT$244.4 billion, accounting for 48.8% of the total value of agricultural production. The main product is fruits with the share of 37.4%, following by vegetables(26.3%), rice(15.3%), flowers(6.8%), special-use crops (5.2%), dry crops(4.4%), and other crops(4.6%).
(2)The value of livestock production was NT$164 billion, accounting for 32.7% of the total value of agricultural production. In terms of the structure of the production value of different types of livestock, hogs was the most important products which accounted for 43.8%, following by poultry(31.2%), eggs(14.7%), and other types of livestock and their byproducts(10.3%).
(3)The value of fishery production was NT$92.3 billion, accounting for 18.4% of the total value of agricultural production. The production of distant water fisheries accounted for 42.5%, following by the inland aquaculture industry(35.9%), the offshore fisheries(10.9%), ocean aquaculture(6.8%), the coastal fisheries(3.9%), and the proportion of the inland fish catching was negligible.
(4)The total value of forestry production was NT$240 million, accounting for less than 0.1% of the total value of agricultural production.
- Rice is the most important staple food in Taiwan. In recent years, the rice planted land is about 251,000 hectares, producing about 1.58 million metric tons of rice. The total production of rice in 2015 exceeded NT$37.4 billion.