Developing High-value, Innovative Agriculture

AGRICULTURAL INNOVATION — Vice President Chen and Hsinchu Mayor Lin Chih-chien at an event to promote Taiwan’s mullet roe. Photo Courtesy of Office of the President.

The “new agriculture innovation program” adopted by the Executive Yuan on December 8 last year forms the basis of this “plus” initiative added onto the original Five Pillar Industries. The goal is to develop a viable agricultural sector suitable for a modern economy – one with sufficient competitiveness without over-reliance on government subsidies.

The program aims to increase the output value of local agriculture by NT$43.4 billion (US$1.4 billion) by the end of 2020, and over the same period to increase the average farming-household annual income to NT$1.8 million from the 2015 level of NT$1.2 million. To achieve the goal, the government plans to invest a total of NT$110 billion – NT$20 billion in the first year and NT$30 billion in each of the remaining three years.

A centerpiece of the four-year program is the introduction of modern technology into agricultural operations, so as to boost the added-value. The government will enlist industry, academia, and research bodies to jointly engage in the R&D of agricultural technologies. The program calls for the setup of 20 “agricultural processing zones” and comprehensive agricultural cooperation with Thailand, Vietnam, Burma, and Indonesia. It will also encourage the establishment of agro-biotech firms.

Besides developing high-added-value agricultural products, advanced technologies will also be employed in helping the farming sector cope with the problems of labor shortages and climate change. By developing manpower-saving techniques, such as the use of drones for pesticide spraying, the government expects to achieve a 60% reduction during the four-year period in the level of manpower needed on Taiwan’s farms.

To inject fresh blood into farming, the Council of Agriculture hopes to enroll 3,000 senior-high graduates a year in university agriculture departments. In return for free tuition, the students will be asked to pledge to engage in agricultural activity for at least three years after graduation.

To stabilize farmers’ incomes, the government also plans to enact an agricultural insurance law, offering tax incentives to encourage insurance companies to offer insurance to farmers against loss from natural calamities. Over the past 20 years, such losses have amounted to an average of NT$11.7 billion annually.

Other major policies under the program include enhancing the competitiveness of the livestock and poultry-raising industries, promoting the sustainable utilization of agricultural resources, assuring the safety of domestic agricultural products, and expanding domestic and overseas sales channels for Taiwan’s agricultural goods.