Today we talk to Mrs. Shu-Fen Tseng who comes from the Agriculture and Food Agency, Council of Agriculture of Taiwan. During her stay in Germany she seeks to improve the competitiveness of Taiwanese agricultural products.
EQAsce: EQAsce seeks to improve education on an international level. The cooperative is active in the field of the agri and food sector and wants to implement knowledge in the field of quality management. Is quality management a big topic in Taiwan?
Mrs. Shu-Fen Tseng: Since 2006 we implemented a GAP system in Taiwan which is similar to local GAP of GlobalG.A.P. Recently, we felt that our farmers need to elevate their level of quality in their products to an international level, because a higher level of standard is expected when entering the export market. So, we think that our farmers need to fulfill GlobalG.A.P. requirements. That would be a good thing although our export-trade-percentage for Taiwan is not very high.
EQAsce: What does the agri and food sector look like in Taiwan and what are current challenges to the farmers in your country?
Mrs. Shu-Fen Tseng: If we look at the GAP system, we actually focus on the field of food safety in Taiwan. We concentrate on the use of pesticides, certification and traceability and we want to set up a Taiwanese GAP system. But we assume that GLOBALG.A.P. might not be easy to be certified since it includes additional environmental conservation, labor welfare and social welfare issues. It won’t be easy for our farmers to pay the higher fees, make risk assessments and do robust recording themselves for the certification. In addition, our average farm size is only 0.8 hectare. And that is a problem. Also, controlling is not easy.
Second, the price of agri-products in Taiwan is not high. Farmers cannot earn much from selling their products. And we fear that with the certification they need to pay too much. The reason is that the harvest season of many agri-products is condensed and in that time the prices are low because of the limited size of our market.
Therefore, we need to explore chances at the export-market: Even most of our products are consumed domestically and the percentage of export in Taiwan is low, export is still important for us because it can assure a certain price level. So, farmers are interested in exporting and this way they are interested in ensuring the quality. We think that we need to have a GLOBALG.A.P. and to improve their practice. But meeting the GLOBALG.A.P. standards is a huge step and the expenses on it are very high.
EQAsce: During your visit in Germany, we were talking about a cooperation to bring knowledge about quality systems to Taiwan. Why is this important to you from a governmental perspective?
Mrs. Shu-Fen Tseng: There are quite some problems that we have. We want to promote GLOBALG.A.P. in Taiwan. But one problem is that very few people know about GLOBALG.A.P. – it is not popular, even for consultants. The government wants to help the farmers. We need to let them learn how to do risk assessment, how to formulate the SOP (standard operating procedure) and to record the information. And we have no successful case to serve as a good example to follow. That is why we think we can learn something from Germany and bring it to Taiwan.
EQAsce: What other interesting aspect is left to tell?
Mrs. Shu-Fen Tseng: There are many problems that we would like to solve but we don’t know how. There are many aspects. We hope that our trip here gives us a lot to learn for the future. This does not only mean quality management systems but also how to bring the farmers to knowledge and how to promote the GLOBALG.A.P. very quick.