I-Mei begins contract farming for healthy crops with Southern Taiwan growers

I-Mei Foods CEO Luis Ko and Pingtung County magistrate Pan Men-an work together to better the lives of native Taiwanese in Pingtung and the health of Taiwanese consumers

(By Taiwan News)

PINGTUNG (Taiwan News) - Global trade has been blamed for local job losses and decreases in local crop diversity and the situation worries a Taiwanese food giant. Known for its strong dedication to food safety, I-Mei Foods has also delved into the procurement of agricultural produce from local farmers in recent years and, furthermore, is partnering with indigenous farmers in Pingtung County to procure fresh red quinoa without a middleman so as to guarantee farmers a decent and stable income.

In a contract signing ceremony held on Tuesday in Pingtung, I-Mei Foods CEO Luis Ko wore native costumes and was warmly greeted with a dance by Taiwanese indigenous children living in Sandimen Township, Pingtung County. In his opening speech, Ko confessed that he couldn't speak any of the island's indigenous languages, though he has been living on the island for decades and has native Taiwanese ancestry.

Several battles over the past centuries and prolonged socioeconomic disadvantages shattered native Taiwanese confidence. Invited to attend the signing ceremony aimed to help native Taiwanese financially through contract farming, Deputy Minister of Council of Indigenous People Iwan Nawi said she was glad to see more support from local conglomerates and urged the native Taiwanese to work together and have more confidence in themselves.

Ko joined Nawi to urge native Taiwanese to embrace their own identity, be proud, and work together for Taiwan's agriculture to benefit all parties and to shine across the country and around the world.

The photo shows I-Mei Foods CEO Luis Ko (Photo by Taiwan News)

Ko was joined by Pingtung County magistrate Pan Men-an (潘孟安) at the signing ceremony, who visited the company's headquarter in early 2015 to promote indigenous farming in the county, resulting in today's partnership between the two.

Ko said after a year of study, he decided to delve into the growing of red quinoa, which is proven to contain high nutritional value and cancer-fighting properties, as one of the contracted crops.

"Growing quinoa consumes far less water compared to other crops and that is of great importance to agricultural businesses in the current context of water scarcity,” Ko added.

Despite its many benefits, quinoa was off the radar of Taiwanese growers due to the strong price competitiveness of its counterparts from Central and Southern America. Ko said the top three valuable and nutritional crops grown by native Taiwanese – red quinoa, pigeon pea and millet – are facing severe competition from imports and that makes him sad.

To tackle the problem and fulfill corporate social responsibility, he said, the company has proposed a sustainable contract farming arrangement with guaranteed volume and price by partnering with the farmers in Sandimen Township in order to benefit all parties from farmers themselves to consumers island-wide as well.

I-Mei Foods CEO Luis Ko (fifth from right), Pingtung County magistrate Pan Men-an (fourth from left) and Deputy Minister of Council of Indigenous People Iwan Nawi (fourth from right) pose in front of a red quinoa farm in Pingtung County on Tuesday.

I-Mei Foods CEO Luis Ko (fourth from right) and Pingtung County magistrate Pan Men-an (fourth from left) are planting the seeds of red quinoa into the land after the signing ceremony.