General References

Lebensmittel und Getränkeindustrie der Schweiz [Swiss Food and Beverage Industry], 17th ed., Orell Fuessli, Zurich, Switzerland, 1998.

J. Solms, "Directory of Swiss Educational and Research Establishments," [Compiled for the European Federation of Food Science and Technology, Department of Food Science, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich], Lebensmittel-Technologie 24, 53-56 (1991). Statistisches Jahrbuch der Schweiz [Statistical Yearbook of Switzerland], Neue Zuercher Zeitung, Zurich, Switzerland, 1998. Swiss Association of Food Industries, Jahresstatistik [Annual Statistical Report], Bern, Switzerland, 1998. Swiss Farmers Association, Monatsstatistik [Monthly Statistical Reports], Brugg, Switzerland, 1998.

Felix E. Escher

Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) Zurich, Switzerland


Taiwan is a tobacco-leaf-shaped island located due east of Fu-Jian Province of China across the Taiwan Strait. It has a surface area of 36,000 km2, or about the size of the Netherlands, but almost three-fourths of the Island is covered by a steep mountain range running from the north to the south, in which more than 100 peaks are higher than 3000 m. The eastern end of the monsoon belt reaches the island, and the Tropic of Cancer dissects the middle. Thus the climate is subtropic in the plain area but cool temperate up in the hills, and the entire Island has abundance of rainfall. Rather broad and very narrow alluvial plain belts suitable for agricultural exploitation are found on the western and eastern coastal zones, respectively. Rivers originate at the central mountain range and run westward or eastward reaching the Taiwan Strait or the Pacific Ocean, respectively. They are short in length and rapid in flow, so the water is little retained before being discharged into the sea. Nevertheless, intensive and extensive tropical to subtropical agriculture is practiced on coastal plains. Some temporal agricultural activities are also found at the scattered mountain farms where mainly temporal fruits and vegetables are grown. Although forests are dense in mountains, lumbering is almost prohibited for land conservation reasons. Because of the prevalence of the wide range of tropical, subtropical, and temporal climatic conditions, a very rich fauna is found on the island. Similarly, in addition to the main cash crops such as rice, sugar cane, sweet potato, tea, pineapple, banana, and so on, diverse agricultural crops are produced in Taiwan.

Although Taiwan is rich in rainfall and favorable in temperature for agricultural operation, it often suffers from the visits of typhoons and the torrential rainfalls that accompany them. Damages caused by severe wind and excessive rainfall are not limited to agriculture but also extend to many social functions. The development and implementation of technologies for food processing, storage, transportation, and so on are needed for not only enhancing the usefulness and value of food materials but also meeting emergencies caused by natural disasters.

Among 21 million inhabitants, currently Taiwan's agricultural population is stabilized at about 18% of the total in about 800,000 households. The number fluctuates more or less within 5% according to changes in economic situa tions, because the agricultural economy serves as the buffering domain for accommodating fluctuation in the non-agricultural employment. The size of an average farm is 1.1 ha. The low economic efficiency of ordinary farming is attributed to the small farm size and has provided an incentive to establish containment facilities for the production of higher-value-added products such as medicinal plants, ornamental flowers, off-season fruits and vegetables, and so on, in recent years. The income of farming families is the lowest among all categories of households as seen from the fact that agricultural productions earn only 2.78% of total domestic productions in terms of the dollars.

Up to early sixties, the export of rice and bananas and some processed agricultural products such as refined cane sugar, canned pineapple, mushrooms and asparagus, and frozen fisheries products had played a significant role in earning foreign exchanges needed for industrial development. In 1968 rice and cane sugar alone still represented 11% of total national exports. Although the share of raw and processed food and feed products dropped from 31.6% of total export value in 1968 to 5.5% in 1988 and then 2.8% in 1996, the value increased from $250 million to $3.32 billion and then to $4.08 billion in the same periods. Up to 1996, the total export value of food and feed-related products exceeded that of imports, meaning that the agricultural productivity and capacity of the food industry of Taiwan had been more than self-sustaining in feeding the population in terms of commodity exchange values until recently (Table 1). This situation is now reversed; Taiwan is a net importer of agricultural products by continuously expanding imports and diminishing exports simultaneously. The affluence of the society has caused significant changes in food consumption habits, such as shifting from the rice-based diet to the wheat-based one, and the consumption of more expensive formerly exported and now imported foods and beverages, such as fisheries products, dairy products, beef, and wines and liquors.

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