Sat, Jul 11, 2009 - Page 2 News List

Orchid growers hope for technological boost

STAFF WRITER, WITH CNA

Butterfly orchid producers have introduced radio frequency identification (RFID) technology in a move that is expected to raise productivity, agricultural researchers said on Thursday.

As competition in the global orchid market becomes increasingly fierce, research fellows at the Taiwan Agriculture Research Institute said the nation needs to introduce new technology to sharpen its competitive edge in the sector.

Saying that RFID is a powerful emerging technology that enables companies to keep better track of their assets, tools and inventories, the researchers said introduction of the technology to the orchid business will help improve the accuracy of order delivery dates and quantities, thereby increasing customer satisfaction.

If RFID technology is integrated with other automated production and management systems, local orchid productivity could also be raised significantly, the researchers said.

Saying that orchid cultivation — and butterfly orchids in particular — plays a very important role in the nation’s agricultural sector, an official from the Council of Agriculture’s (COA) Taiwan Agriculture Research Institute said Taiwan must pull out all the stops to breed new orchid hybrids and develop new cultivation know-how to maintain its market niche.

The latest statistics released by the council show Taiwan’s flower acreage totals about 13,475 hectares, with an annual production value of about NT$12.36 billion (US$374 million).

The figures account for only about 1.78 percent of Taiwan’s total agricultural production acreage and 7.34 percent of the total annual farming production value, respectively.

Despite the relatively small share of horticulture in terms of acreage and total production value, the official said the unit production value in the sector is about NT$918,000 per hectare.

Among the various floral species cultivated commercially, orchid farms cover about 592 hectares, but their combined annual production value amounts to NT$2.874 billion, representing a unit production value of NT$4.86 million per hectare and indicating that orchids are a high-yielding cash crop.

In comparison, butterfly orchids occupy an even more central role in terms of economic advantage. Butterfly orchids account for only 33.8 percent of the total orchids farmed but export value accounts for 75.2 percent of the total orchid production value.

These figures signify the importance of breeding new butterfly orchid cultivars and developing new cultivation technologies, the official said.

Through years of strenuous efforts, Taiwan has managed to develop greenhouses that suit the nation’s climatic conditions and has established a cultivation system that can ensure perennial blooming of orchids, the official said.

While local butterfly orchid production acreages and values have continued to increase, with Japan and the US serving as the principal export markets, the official said locally produced orchids have been facing ever fiercer competition from the Netherlands, China and Southeast Asia in recent years.

Against this backdrop, the official said, continued quality improvement and upgrading of productivity has become very important in the effort to sustain Taiwan’s butterfly orchid industry.

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