Fri, Nov 16, 2012 - Page 8 News List

Time for agriculture to modernize

By Du Yu 杜宇

However, the problem lies in identifying what areas of the country are suitable for such development, as well as what areas may lack competitiveness even if they are suitable for development. Although the government has a great number of agricultural researchers, they are not engaged in planning nor in carrying out assessments to assist farmers willing to change their business model to attract investment in agribusiness.

It is a pity because such an approach could allow those involved in agriculture who treat the environment well to become the backbone of the industry.

In order to open up the market for Taiwan’s agricultural products, the government should get all agricultural testing and research personnel together, and have local governments assist them in drawing up standard operating procedures for these business models and compile them into a production manual.

Such a manual could include standards to be followed when choosing a business model, such as should one choose single or diversified crops, or what sort of climate is necessary for production — including information on sunlight, temperature differences, rainfall, soil quality and technology. The manual could also include information on how to choose varieties to plant and where to source them, as well as how to decide on the most appropriate scale of operation, including total area of operation, amount of capital needed, infrastructure, output and ratio.

Such an approach would lay down a roadmap for successful agricultural operations and would mean farmers no longer need to rely on gut feeling alone.

Distribution channels are also critical to improving the sector. Taiwan’s limited domestic demand and capacity, and its less-than-successful efforts to open up overseas markets have frequently resulted in an imbalance between sales and production.

This has hurt farmers as prices plunge — a problem that has long plagued the industry.

Taiwan’s market for traditional agricultural products has long suffered from problems such as a lack of transparent information on trading, products being easily polluted or damaged during transportation, and a complex supply chain resulting in high intermediary and storage costs. These problems have caused trading prices on wholesale markets and prices at the place of origin to differ so greatly that farmers’ incomes are out of proportion to the amount of hard work they put in.

Teaching farmers how to open up markets for themselves is the most important thing agricultural agencies can do. This is especially true in the modern age, as the Internet, group buying and delivery services become more widespread.

Consumer behavior has also changed, and in future, technology can be used to establish a complete platform for the production and sale of agricultural products, including information on production and sale inside and outside of Taiwan, market prices and the current status of consumers.

All these factors could assist farmers in making the correct decisions when it comes to the production and sale of agricultural products.

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