- Source:Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Taiwan’s climate is suited to growing a large spectrum of flower species, and with the development of sophisticated cultivation techniques, floriculture has been flourishing in recent years. In 2008, total flower production amounted to NT$11.7 billion (US$372 million) and the industry netted a total of NT$3.4 billion (US$107.8 million) in exports, with Japan, the United States, the Netherlands and mainland China being the main export destinations.
Taiwan is a global leader in the growing of orchids. The moth orchid, or Phalaenopsis, thrives in Taiwan’s subtropical climate and is the flower most well received in foreign markets, accounting for 48 percent of flower exports in 2008. The state-run Taiwan Sugar Corporation (TSC) has been a key player in the industry since diversifying into orchid production in the late 1980s, using its expertise in biotechnology to develop over 1,600 varieties of butterfly orchid. The majority of orchid growers, however, are small to medium-sized, family-run businesses.
The government is investing a total of NT$2.06 billion (US$65.4 million) to develop the Taiwan Orchid Plantation, a 200-hectare biotech science park in Tainan devoted to orchid R&D and production. Investors can rent greenhouses or lease land to build their own facilities in the park. Since 2005, the Taiwan International Orchid Show, one of the biggest fairs of its kind in the world, has been held in the park’s exhibition hall.
As the colorful opening act to the Taipei International Gardening and Horticulture Exposition to be held in November 2010, Taiwan hosted the Taipei International Flower Exhibition in March 2009. Over 100,000 varieties of flowers captivated visitors’ attention with their fragrance and beauty. Approximately 120,000 visitors attended the festival during its five-day run.
Fruits and Vegetables
Thanks to Taiwan’s climatic diversity, a vast array of fruits and vegetables can be grown on the island, including items not normally part of a Western diet such as bitter gourd, bamboo, lychee, passion fruit, pineapple, pomelo, sand pear and starfruit. In 2008, 2.58 million tonnes of fruit and 2.64 million tonnes of vegetables were grown on 213,180 hectares and 153,985 hectares of land, respectively.
Taiwan’s accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO) has forced local fruit growers to adjust cultivation and marketing methods to deal with increased competition from foreign imports. Fruit growers are concentrating on promoting premium products, and some orchards are being repurposed as agritourism destinations. The total value of fruit sales abroad in 2008 reached approximately NT$1.32 billion (US$42 million). Japan, which has some of the most stringent food import standards in the world, was Taiwan’s largest foreign market for fruit, receiving 43.3 percent of all such exports. Most vegetables are produced for domestic consumption. In 2008, bamboo shoots, cabbages, watermelons, shiitake mushrooms, leafy vegetables and scallions had the highest production value.
Taiwan’s Seasonal Fruits and Vegetables
Taiwan is justly famous for its fruits and vegetables, of which it boasts an abundance of varieties. In winter, sweet oranges and jujubes are plentiful, as are cabbages, Chinese cabbages, onions and broccoli. When spring comes, strawberries take the spotlight and are enjoyed on their own, in fruit drinks and as an ingredient in many a sweet treat. The main crop of edamame, or vegetable soybean, is harvested at this time as well.
Summertime is when the island truly bursts forth with a cornucopia of flavors. Often combined with shaved ice and condensed milk, mangos are among the most popular of Taiwan’s summer products. Other fruits that become ripe at this time of year are pineapples, sand pears and wax apples. Watermelons are also at their peak in the hot summer months, helping Taiwan’s people young and old keep cool and refreshed.
In autumn, Ponkan mandarin oranges, pomelos, starfruits and grapes grace tables across the nation. Year round, Taiwan enjoys fresh greens including chayote shoots, spinach and Chinese broccoli, as well as scallions, eggplant and carrots. Plantains, guavas and papayas can also be had in any month.
Rice seedlings sit wrapped ready for sale. Taiwan is well on its way to becoming a global breeding and cultivation center.
As dietary habits in Taiwan have changed to include more dairy and wheat-based products, there has been a gradual decline in rice consumption and production. In addition, rice producers have been exposed to new competition since Taiwan’s WTO accession. However, rice imports are currently under a tariff-rate quota system, and rice still ranked as Taiwan’s most valuable crop in 2008, with more than 1.45 million tonnes yielded from 252,292 hectares of land.
To ensure this crop’s future viability and boost the rice price, researchers and farmers are devoting themselves to refining cultivation techniques and developing new, high-quality varieties of Taiwan’s rice. Many of these strains have already been made available for purchase. In a testament to these efforts, a total of 33,830 tonnes of high-quality rice was exported in 2008. As this work to improve varieties takes time, the government continues to purchase paddy rice (205,000 tonnes in 2008) to stabilize prices.
Taiwan was once one of the world’s leading sugar exporters. In the 1950s and 1960s, over 100,000 hectares of land were dedicated to sugarcane production, with over one million tonnes of sugar produced annually. However, increasing labor costs and steadily declining sugar prices over the following decades dealt a heavy blow to the industry. In 2008, 8,530 hectares were under cultivation, more than two-thirds of which was farmed by TSC. Raw and refined sugar imports stood at 559,168 tonnes in 2008. TSC has responded to market developments by expanding into tourism, biotechnology, land development and, as mentioned above, floriculture.
Before Taiwan’s tea market opened to imports from Southeast Asia in the early 1990s, tea was a major export commodity for Taiwan. In 2008, domestic production was 17,384 tonnes. Although a total of 25,711 tonnes of tea was imported to Taiwan, the island’s Oolong tea (a semi-fermented tea) remains highly competitive in the international market, accounting for almost one-fifth of the world’s production.
As tea drinking is an important cultural pastime in Taiwan, owners of many tea plantations have taken advantage of this by opening their doors to tourists. Visitors to such plantations receive guided tours and learn about the different stages of tea production while sampling a variety of tea brews.
Dong Ding Oolong Tea
In the mountains of Nantou County is tucked a surprise—amid the quiet villages here in central Taiwan, Dong Ding Oolong tea is grown. While Taiwan is famed for its production of many oolong varieties, Dong Ding is in a class of its own. The variety, developed from cultivars said to have been brought from mainland China in the mid-19th century, is less fermented than traditional oolongs, giving it a distinctive smooth flavor that has won the tea much praise. Connoisseurs also like Dong Ding for the eye-catching golden color of its liquor and the fact that it is still largely handpicked. This fine tea is a major source of employment and income in the region. Its leaves have won villages many awards and improved life in local communities thanks to the profits they bring in.
Taiwan has over 1,600 kilometers of coastline. To the east, the world’s second-strongest ocean current—the Kuroshio— guides abundant stocks of migrating fish through Taiwan’s waters, while the continental shelf on Taiwan’s western coast provides a habitat and spawning ground for a wide variety of sea life. Over the past 60 years, the fishery industry has expanded from being composed mostly of small-scale coastal fisheries to now encompassing commercial aquaculture and deep-sea fisheries.
In 2008, approximately 128,000 households in Taiwan were involved in aquaculture or fishing and Taiwan harvested 1.1 million tonnes of fish worth NT$56.7 billion (US$1.8 billion), of which 48 percent came from deep-sea fisheries. About half of Taiwan’s total production was shipped abroad, with skipjack, squid, big-eye tuna, yellow-fin tuna and tilapia (a small, fast-growing food fish) being the leading exports.
To ensure the sustainable utilization of fishery resources, promote multilateral cooperation and keep fishing practices in line with global standards, Taiwan participates in a number of international and regional fishery organizations, including the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission, the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission, the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tuna, the Commission for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna and the APEC Fisheries Working Group.
Aquaculture—the raising of fish and other aquatic organisms—has also grown steadily in Taiwan over the past several decades. Nearly 100 aquatic species can be cultivated in Taiwan, thanks to the island’s varied climate and advances in technology. Tilapia, eel and milkfish are three of Taiwan’s most important aquacultural products. In 2008, Taiwan exported over 36,500 tonnes of tilapia, making it the world’s second-largest exporter of the fish, while eel production amounted to nearly 25,000 tonnes. Other important aquacultural products in Taiwan include groupers, oysters and clams.
Goats enjoy a meal at Flying Cow Ranch in central Taiwan, whose livestock industry has begun to boom in recent years.
Livestock farming in Taiwan has become the mainstay of the nation’s agricultural sector in recent years owing to technical innovations and an increase in the demand for animal protein. In 2008, total production value amounted to approximately NT$146.2 billion (US$4.64 billion), accounting for 36 percent of total agricultural output. The three major products, in order of importance, were pigs, broiler chickens and eggs. Imports of livestock products, including meat and offal, came in at 206,351 tonnes, while exports of these products increased to 13,354 tonnes.
As part of an ongoing process to improve meat health and safety standards, experts at the COA’s Bureau of Animal and Plant Health Inspection and Quarantine conduct inspections in the country’s registered slaughterhouses. The bureau is also responsible for preventing animal pests and diseases from entering Taiwan via imported goods. Taiwan is free from bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE or mad-cow disease), rabies, H5N1 influenza and rinderpest.