More advanced technology should be introduced into the agriculture sector to help grow produce and reduce losses caused by natural disasters, a Taipei forum on disaster prevention was told yesterday.
Agricultural losses from natural disasters last year totaled NT$28.01 billion (US$931.8 million at the current exchange rate), a 10-year high, with damage to facilities totaling NT$730 million and produce losses reaching NT$27.28 billion, date from the Directorate-General Budget, Accounting and Statistics showed.
Climate change is compounding the impact of natural disasters, causing more serious agricultural losses, Fang Yi-tan (方怡丹), a section head at the Council of Agriculture’s Agriculture and Food Agency, told the forum at National Taiwan University.
The forum, organized by the Rural Economics Society of Taiwan and the university’s department of bio-industry communication and development, focused on how to boost the agriculture sector’s resistance to natural disasters.
The council has launched a five-year plan to encourage farmers to build stronger greenhouses to protect their produce, Fang said.
It has also increased the subsidies provided to construct greenhouses from one-third to half of their cost, while the maximum subsidies for different types of structures are between NT$900,000 and NT$5.5 million per hectare of structure, she said.
Kaohsiung Department of Agriculture Deputy Director-General Wang Cheng-yi (王正一), however, questioned whether the subsidies are really helpful.
The average cost of a greenhouse has increased from NT$13 million to NT$16 million per hectare of coverage after the council increased subsidies, he said, adding that many farmers remain doubtful about investing in greenhouses.
Advanced technology could help the sector reduce the development cost of greenhouses with more monitoring facilities, he said.
Greenhouse construction is not yet industrialized, and many farmers are not used to protecting their own rights by signing construction contracts, said Wu Ming-hsiao (吳明孝), a professor at I-Shou University’s department of public policy and management, who discussed his observations made during field studies commissioned by the council.
Tsai Yi-cheng (蔡易成), chairman of the Yunlin County-based Sun Fresh Agricultural Products Co, said he fully supports the council’s plan to promote industrialization of agricultural facilities, given the instability in Taiwan’s produce supplies due to natural disasters.
The agriculture sector should also be upgraded with the assistance of big data analysis, which can help farmers grasp market demands and grow produce with plans, he added.
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