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Taiwan opens up new markets with lettuce exports to Saudi Arabia

Council of Agriculture (COA) Minister Chen Chi-chung held a press conference today in Yunlin on the subject of “Shipping Taiwan Lettuce to Saudi Arabia,” to which people were invited to observe the employment of an integrated system of cold-chain technology developed by the COA’s Taiwan Agricultural Research Institute (TARI). The COA has guided the Mailiao Township Vegetable Production-and-Marketing Group of Yunlin County to produce Taiwan lettuce for export to Saudi Arabia, where it will be sold in stores, thereby pioneering a new market for the export of Taiwanese agriproducts.

Minister Chen stated that because Taiwanese vegetables have a high water content, if post-harvest handling is not done well and critical cold-chain technology is not precisely used, the appearance, quality, and appeal of the products to foreign buyers will all be affected when they arrive at their destination. In recent years, Taiwan has continually improved the quality of exported lettuce, stabilizing its quality by using a combination of not allowing lettuce to touch the ground during harvesting as well as vacuum precooling with an integrated system of cold-chain technology. At its peak, export volume has exceeded 10,000 metric tons, mainly to countries with relatively short shipping periods (7 to 10 days) such as Japan, Korea, and Singapore. The COA has devoted three years of effort to guiding agribusinesses to build on existing markets and proactively expand into Middle Eastern and European markets. Part of this is combining the integrated system of cold-chain technology developed by TARI with the high-quality field cultivation techniques of the Mailiao Vegetable Production-and-Marketing Group. This has led to the extension of the period of time for which export lettuce can be kept fresh during storage and transportation from 20 to 28 days, and to raising the defect-free rate to over 98%, thus opening the door to new opportunities for exports to markets with relatively longer delivery times such as the Middle East.

TARI has used front-end smart technology in the fields to predict the best times to harvest lettuce, adjusted the post-harvest rapid precooling process, and optimized critical cold-chain technology during shipment, for the purpose of extending the period of time for which exported agriproducts can be kept fresh, thus reducing losses and upgrading quality. Cooperative work by TARI, Unit 47 of the Mailiao Township Vegetable Production-and-Marketing Group, and farms producing exclusively for export, has confirmed that the period of time for which export lettuce can be kept fresh can be extended from 20 to 28 days, not only making it possible to store and ship export lettuce over long distances, but also ensuring that after deducting the time required for shipping and clearing customs, the lettuce can be kept on store shelves for over a week.

The COA notes that since the launching of the Muslim Markets Survey Program in 2017, it has focused on products with sales potential in Muslim markets and at the same time has inventoried public and private cold-chain logistics capabilities to gain an understanding of gaps and shortcomings in agriproduct cold chains and transport. In the future the COA will continue to coordinate the R&D capabilities of its research institutes, and work together with local farmers and exporters to introduce smart agricultural cultivation and cold-chain management systems to upgrade the quality of exported agriproducts. The COA will also help exporters acquire international certifications like GlobalGAP based on international norms and the requirements in target markets, thus further refining Taiwan’s export strategy to markets throughout the world.

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