75 per cent of Taiwan farms 'illegal', banning to proceed in May

75 per cent of Taiwan farms 'illegal', banning to proceed in May
A female tea farmer collecting fresh tea leaves from the farms in Nantou, central Taiwan.

The Council of Agriculture (COA) announced yesterday that it will continue to push forward amending regulations on setting up and managing farms, and is preparing to launch a nationwide conference at the beginning of May in order to tackle the issue and ban illegally constructed farms.

The Ministry of the Interior (MOI) reported that while 2,554 farms out of the 28,405 nationwide have been deemed illegal, only 108 farms have been inspected by the cities and counties.

Twenty of these passed investigations, while 82 farms were found to be illegal. That means 75.9 per cent of the farms that have been inspected were found to breach regulations.

Chen Jung-chun of the Soil and Water Conservation Bureau's Rural Division, had local governments investigate illegal farms at the end of last year with to ensure that they complied with rules on building farms on agricultural land. Yet so far, only half of the cities and counties have reported back.

Among the city and county governments that have reported back are Taipei City, New Taipei City, Taichung, Changhua, Chiayi County and City, Tainan, Kaohsiung, Taitung, Penghu, Kinmen, Matsu and Keelung, officials said.

Chen pointed out that violations include illegal construction of farms, excessive fences, unauthorized containers, illegal metal huts, concrete paving, garages, factories, laying down landscaping grass and ponds and a lack of crops.

City and county governments should work within existing regional planning and urban planning guidelines and related national park laws to regulate or penalize operators. Penalties range from NT$60,000 (S$2,600) to NT$300,000, said Chen.

"While the COA cannot terminate a farming buildings' usage license, it is possible for us to repeal the owner's farmer status. A person cannot construct any farm buildings without a farming qualification," Chen explained.

Authorities report that many of the illegal farms are concentrated in Yilan and Miaoli County.

Council of Agriculture Minister Chen Bao-ji reported that Yilan has the most illegally constructed farms in Taiwan at a total of 7,551, according to Yilan government statistics from 2000 to 2014.

There were nearly 5,000 farms sold off or transferred and 64 per cent of the farms were transferred to other owners after construction, totaling 2,094 cases.

Chen said many of the farms in Yilan are involved in business dealings, according to long- and short-term statistics.

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