I-Mei Foods CEO Luis Ko’s “Taiwan New Agriculture” Rhapsody

1/ Farmers with their own land and who use pesticides sparingly should have a stable reasonable income and receive respect in order to sustain Taiwan’s beautiful environment and forever protect Taiwan’s quality agricultural land.

2/ The government should offer sufficient industrial land, and should not allow illegal factories with nowhere to go destroying pure agricultural land with their waste water.

3/ The government should offer sufficient waste treatment plants, in order not to let regular industrial waste lead to the renting of agricultural land for low-key burial causing pollution of agricultural produce.

4/ The government should help farmers stabilize the production and marketing of their products, and help with research and development to raise the added value of the products – in order to let the farmers replace their traditional understanding of produce as the object of value with the new concept of general income value for agricultural produce for each 1,000 square meters.

If after farmers start cutting down on the use of pesticides, their income from selling the leaves of the plants will be bigger than that from selling the radishes themselves, then why should they waste a considerable amount of time by waiting to harvest the radishes? If they consider both elements, their benefits will be even more positive. If they start selling passion fruit and dragon fruit at the same time, the skins of the fruits can provide added value, raise the farmers’ incomes, and help resolve the problem of agricultural waste, while the reduction in the use of pesticides will also form part of “killing many birds with one stone.”

5/ The government should strengthen its campaign to promote the planting of crops which do not use much water in order to allow the freeing of sufficient water resources for use by the high-tech sector.

6/ Assist farmers in developing crops which do not produce much waste, and research the use of agricultural waste for high-value use in cosmetics and health products, or even higher-value use as medical ingredients. Such measures will not only benefit farmers, but also cut the production of agricultural waste and improve the global competitiveness of Taiwanese agriculture.

7/ The agricultural sector suffers from the high age of its working force and from the most severe labor shortage, as old farmers are weak and do not have a voice, while officials hold the opinion that managing foreign farm workers is too difficult, so proposals to introduce them keep being rejected. Is that fair? Inviting a small group of young students each year to visit the countryside or to return home there to work is only a drop in the bucket. We hope the ageing farmers who have to take care of such a large amount of land can receive the needed assistance and respect.

8/ The government can further strengthen its assistance to farmers in building a “screen house culture” system in order to respond to extreme weather conditions created by future climate change and to help stabilize the production and supply of agricultural crops.

9/ The government should assist farmers in setting up a regional and mobile “crop draught” system to help them respond to crop shortages caused by the rainy season or by typhoons, and ward off the rising threat of aflatoxins, thus contributing to the guaranteeing of food safety.

10/ We hope that the officials at the government bodies in charge of protecting food safety, agricultural safety and environmental safety, the Food and Drugs Administration at the Ministry of Health and Welfare, the Council of Agriculture and the Environmental Protection Administration can understand that the Executive Yuan is one team and can gradually review the use of “environmental drugs, animal drugs and agricultural drugs” and soon set standards for their usage and residue levels. They should be able to quickly abandon drugs with a high toxicity level in favor of drugs with lower levels friendlier to the environment. The dispute between departments about fipronil levels in eggs has seriously affected the government’s image, just to give an example.

11/ Plans to spend NT$5 billion (US$166 million) on erecting a testing building and buying a large amount of testing equipment under the government’s “foresight program” will not help raise its ability to guarantee food safety. It is pure waste.

At present, only Premier William Lai has the authority to stop unnecessary waste.

12/ The direction of the government’s five-point food safety policy is right, but it should not be set in stone and become totally unmovable. What is absolutely necessary is to integrate the “three safeties,” environmental safety, agricultural safety and food safety. At present, no government official dares to present detailed suggestions for change. This kind of psychological pressure can only be relieved if President Tsai Ing-wen mentions the issue either directly or succinctly.

If part of the above rhapsody can be turned into reality, that would also be a piece of merit.