Taipei, July 24 (CNA) A 50-hectare zone was opened Tuesday in Tainan to grow pineapples for export, an initiative aimed at adding to the region's lineup of fruits that are finding niches in foreign markets, the city government said Tuesday.
Tainan is hoping that pineapples will follow mangoes in becoming a popular export item, said Hsu Han-ching, head of the city's Agriculture Bureau.
At present, 6,800 hectares of land in Tainan are dedicated to growing mangoes, and the region exports about 900 metric tons of the fruit to Japan and 600 metric tons to South Korea every year.
Hsu said Tainan also devotes 1,400 hectares to the cultivation of pineapples, but the new 50-hectare farm will be developed as a model zone for pineapple farming and benefit from special government assistance.
Tainan hopes to use the zone to grow safer and better quality fruit that will fetch higher prices for farmers and adjust the way pineapples are grown to extend the fruit's season to between March and October, from the current April to June, he said.
In addition, the 32 farmers contracted to cultivate land in the special zone will not be allowed to use growth hormone, which has hurt overseas sales prospects.
Many Taiwanese farmers use the substance to increase the weight of their pineapples, but it also shortens the fruit's storage period from three weeks to one. Exporters have been reluctant to buy pineapples because they often rot by the time they arrive at their destination.
Tainan Mayor Lai Ching-te, who hosted the ceremony Tuesday to mark the zone's establishment, said his government will do its best to help market the pineapples grown in the special zone in countries such as Japan and Singapore.
His hope, he said, is that if farmers can earn stable incomes, more young people will be willing to work in agriculture.
(By Yang Sz-ruei and Nell Shen)