The Council of Agriculture (COA) yesterday said that, to increase the price of rice exported from Taiwan, a policy is being formulated to cut the size of rice fields nationwide by 30,000 hectares, increase the size of land to farm produce that would normally be imported by 20,000 hectares and reduce the amount of rice the government buys from farmers annually by 100,000 tonnes.
COA Minister Chen Bao-ji (陳保基) said in the legislature that the nation’s agricultural sector needs structural reform if it is to be granted membership in international trade organizations such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).
He said that under the plan, the government would shave 100,000 tonnes off the amount of rice it buys from farmers annually to ensure farmers’ profits.
The policies are meant to boost the competitiveness of the nation’s agricultural sector after Taiwan joins the TPP and serves to prepare farmers in advance to potential impacts that might accompany Taiwan’s admission into the TPP, adding that the restructuring of farmland is scheduled to be completed within the next three years.
Chen said that Taiwan subsidizes farmers more than Japan and South Korea, but the price of rice from Japan is twice that of Taiwan’s on the international market, while rice from South Korea is worth 1.5 times as much.
Agriculture and Food Agency Director-General Lee Tsang-lang (李蒼郎) said the WTO stipulates that Taiwan must import 144,720 tonnes of rice every year, resulting in a 10 percent surplus in domestic rice output.
By cutting rice output and boosting space for the cultivation of produce that would normally be imported, the nation would be able to reduce its rice surplus and have more space to grow produce it needs but lacks, such as soybeans and wheat, Lee said.
He said the move would help stabilize the international price of Taiwanese rice, adding that farmers’ ability to earn better profits would depend on output.
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