Guangxi, a province in southern China previously unable to grow grapes, has now turned into the biggest grape producer in the country and is very likely to subject Taiwanese grape farmers to intense competition in overseas markets, a legislative report said.

Grapes are only one of many kinds of agricultural products in which Taiwan is losing its competitive advantage to China in foreign and even in domestic markets, the report said.

“And it all happened thanks to an outflow of Taiwan’s agricultural expertise, including professionals, plant seeds and planting techniques, to China,” it said.

Among other examples cited in the report was the raising of eels and Taiwan Tilapia.

In the 1980s, Taiwan-raised eels enjoyed a significant market share in Japan, but it fell from a 74% market share in 1992 to 43% in 2005 and to 4.47% in 2009, while China saw its market share in Japan’s imported preserved eels market jump from 21% to 95%.

Since China overtook Taiwan in 2000 with its exports of Taiwan tilapia to the US and European markets, where Taiwan had been a dominant force, China’s exports of the high-value product are now 20 times higher than those of Taiwan, the report said.

It added that some Taiwanese strains of agricultural products grown or raised in China have also dealt a blow to Taiwanese farmers, as the farmers’ products have been sent back to the country because they were still prohibited from entering China. They included red carrots, pineapples, groupers, black tiger shrimps, abalone, butterfly orchids, carnations and mushrooms.

In the six years since 2006, China has acted “in a more systematic way” to lure Taiwan’s farming sector, with a total of 29 “Development Parks for Taiwan Farmers” established in 14 provinces as of this year, in addition to nine “Cross-Strait Agricultural Cooperative Experimental Zones” that have been set up since 1997, according to the report.

China not only offers Taiwan-funded enterprises in the agricultural parks a set of incentives in land acquisition, tax credits and lending, but also encourages and invites award-winning Taiwanese farmers to visit China through organized tours, or offer them money in exchange for seeds and techniques, the report said.

The report said that the 3,000 hectare Zhangping Yongfu Development Park for Taiwan Farmers, one of six in Fujian Province in southeast China, is being planted with oolong tea, all by Taiwan farmers from Nantou County, a famous tea-producing area, and is being developed into what China calls the “Alishan (阿里山) of China.”

It was estimated by Chinese research institutes that their annual production of oolong tea, which is under cultivation in the Zhangping Yongfu park, could be as high as three-fifths of the amount of high mountain oolong tea produced in Taiwan annually, the report said.

According to the report, based on data from China’s Taiwan Affairs Office, the investment made by Taiwan-funded enterprises in agricultural production in China amounts to US$6.7 billion, far higher than the figure provided by the Investment Commission at the Ministry of Economic Affairs, which was US$4.3 billion.

Source: Taipei Time Dec 2012

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