The Council of Agriculture (COA) announced in a recent statement that China has become the second largest buyer of Taiwan’s agricultural products, citing the resumption of direct cross-strait charter flights and the signing of bilateral treaties such as the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) and the Cross-Strait Agreement on Cooperation in Quarantine and Inspection of Agricultural Products as the driving force behind China’s increased consumption of the island’s agricultural goods. Statistics show that agriculture-related exports to the mainland in 2011 totaled US$670 million, which reflects a 26% increase in comparison to 2010 numbers. Moreover, export value reached US$319 million within the first 5 months of 2012, indicating a growth of 15% in comparison to the same period last year, in which sales of the 18 products listed under the early harvest program have jumped by 50% to rake in US$74.15 million.
Agricultural exports to China swell with tariff-free treatment
Out of the 18 products listed under the ECFA’s early harvest program, which includes fresh groupers, Oncidium orchids (“spray orchids”), tea and softshell turtle eggs, 16 items now enjoy tariff-free status after the cross-strait tax-reduction scheme began its implementation in stages since January 1, 2011. China’s demand for these 18 early-harvest items can be reflected by the fact that last year it spent US$12.564 million in importing a total of 20,315 metric tons; in other words, these figures represent an 88% increase in bulk and a 127% increase in spending in comparison to the year before. Moreover, in the first 5 months of 2012, exports of early-harvest items to China totaled 23,113 metric tons and US$74.15 million, with statistics showing a 298% increase in bulk and a 50% increase in spending. Within the same time period, exports of oranges grew by 100%, live groupers by 34% and tea by 19% – together, these 3 items enjoyed the biggest jump in popularity. Sales of items not yet included by the early harvest program were no less spectacular – exports of sugar apples grew by 287%, pineapples by 75%, Phalaenopsis orchids (“moth orchids”) by 98% and ornamental fish by 90%.
Establishing a premium brand in the Chinese market
The COA explained that it has adopted a wide range of marketing tactics in order to better promote the island’s quality agricultural goods, in which resources are devoted to preserving ties with major purchasers such as Japan, the United States and China, and more efforts are being made to gain entry to new markets in Southeast Asia, Europe and the Middle East. The council added that it hopes to establish Taiwan’s agricultural products as premium goods in the Chinese market, using the logos of Certified Agricultural Standards (CAS) and Good Agricultural Practice (GAP) to craft a reputation for high-quality products. Under this branding scheme, the COA hopes to help differentiate the island’s products from mainland produce in consumers’ eyes by holding promotion events such as the Taiwan Agricultural Products Fair. The nation’s flagship premium agriculture store “Wan Hsiang,” operated by private company Uni-President Dream Parks Corp., will also help cement the island’s reputation for quality in the trend-setting Chinese city of Shanghai. To safeguard the wellbeing and financial returns of the Taiwanese agricultural community, the council pledged to create and maintain stable export supply chains, help increase and monitor the quality of the nation’s produce as well as develop new sale channels and trade partners.