I-Mei supports Taiwan agriculture by raising farmers' income

I-Mei program guarantees higher prices for products such as red quinoa

I-Mei  Foods CEO Luis Ko (left).

I-Mei Foods CEO Luis Ko (left). (Taiwan News photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – After I-Mei Foods Co. (義美食品公司) received praise last year for using locally produced soy beans and black beans to launch “100 percent non-genetically modified Taiwanese soy milk,” it again purchased contractually produced soy beans, black beans, red dates, camellia seed and red quinoa to turn into fresh quality products.

On Friday, I-Mei presented its most recent efforts to support local agriculture at a news conference under the motto “Support Taiwan agriculture and contractual local products.”

I-Mei Foods CEO Luis Ko said Taiwan produced many types of quality agricultural produce, but because they went mostly undiscovered, they could not face up to international competition, leading to a limited degree of competitiveness for local agriculture. Consumers were unable to obtain food they could feel safe about, while farmers could not receive a fair income, Ko said. In order to fulfill the company’s social responsibility, I-Mei had raised the prices it paid in the hope of helping Taiwan’s agricultural development and guaranteeing food safety for consumers, as well as inspiring other enterprises to follow its example.

Ko said that apart from witnessing the government’s efforts to promote agricultural development, he personally felt the inspiration of a member of the Paiwan people aged over 100 who still worked the land. The main reason for his healthy condition was the use of the local red quinoa while maintaining a simple way of life, Ko said.

However, because of a shortage of manpower, a high cost of growing and competition from the quinoa imported from Latin America, it has been difficult to raise prices for local red quinoa, so enthusiasm to increase production has been weak. As a result, Ko decided to sign contracts directly with the farmers, announcing fixed prices above the going market rate online in order to fulfill the company’s social obligations.

No matter what the outside world did or what government policies were, I-Mei would directly buy products from the farmers for a transparent price, Ko said, promising more similar contracts were in the pipeline for more than ten kind of products later this year and next year. The program would promote Taiwanese agriculture with fewer pesticides in order to protect the environment and the land, Ko said.

The current program covered soybeans and black beans from Yunlin and Chiayi, red dates from Gongguan in Miaoli County, camellias from Taichung and Taitung, and red quinoa from Pingtung. I-Mei promised to purchase the items at favorable prices, such as NT$625 per kilo for red quinoa, NT$75 for soybeans, and NT$225 for camellia seeds, with the purchase of rising quantities helping local agriculture.

Council of Agriculture officials praised I-Mei’s move, but said it should form an example for other corporations to follow suit and help local farmers to use fewer pesticides and make a better living.

Ko said there was no reason for people to be pessimistic about the state of Taiwan’s agriculture if the direction was right and if correct government policies helped along the way.