However, considering the nation’s basic data about agricultural production is rather incomplete, a hurried change to land-based subsidies would probably give rise to even greater disputes, so any such move should be approached with caution.
Another issue is to guarantee that agricultural and fishery products are safe to eat. Although the situation in Taiwan concerning harmful additives and agricultural chemical residues is much better than it used to be, substandard foods still often slip through the net. There is still plenty of room for improvement when it comes to pre-sale or pre-export checks on food.
Besides that, to get to the root of the problem one has to proceed right from the start of the farm and livestock product supply chain, which is the point of production down on the farm. It should be recognized that production, not testing, is the starting point for safe agricultural and livestock products. Making Taiwan a center for safe agricultural and fishery products should be a key point in future agricultural policy.
Finally, agricultural policy departments should set up a comprehensive production, sale and supply chain for agricultural products as soon as possible, so as to cut costs and reduce exploitation by middlemen. Good use should be made of new forms of marketing like home delivery and group sales via mobile phone and the Internet.
Farmers can be given guidance on how to use production and marketing teams to grade their own products, set reasonable prices for them, package them and then sell them online or auction them through marketing and distribution companies. Giving farmers access to more varied and comprehensive sales channels and to information such as market prices would allow them to make a reasonable income from their hard work out in the fields.
As to questions of how to put life back into the land and stop the misuse of farmland for other purposes, these also call for overall planning and should not be tackled in a haphazard manner.
Du Yu is chief executive officer of the Chen-Li Task Force for Agricultural Reform.
Translated by Julian Clegg