Land Injustice: Overpriced Farms in Taiwan

Category: Best data-driven reporting (small and large newsrooms)

Country/area: Taiwan

Organisation: Apple Daily Taiwan branch

Organisation size: Big

Publication date: 3 Nov 2019

Credit: Po Chun Ho, Wei Chou Chen, Liang Ju Hou, Yi Jing Wu, Ting Jen Chen, Huan Cheng Lin, Charles Wang, Kristi Hu, King Hsueh, Tiffany Keng

Project description:

By compiling the big data of over 120,000 farmland transaction records and doing grand scale field survey, Apple Daily’s exclusive report has discovered the truth of farmland speculation in Taiwan. We found that Taiwan’s average farmland price in 2018 is as high as 1.6 million US dollars per hectare, which is 14 times higher compared with Japan and 157 times compared with the United States of America. As a result, the farmlands in Taiwan have been dubbed as “the diamond farms,” because they are too expensive to buy for young farmers.

Impact reached:

The report has raised the public’s awareness to this issue. Several Taiwanese environmental protection groups stressed that farmland should not be a real estate commodity. They emphasized that the farmlands are indispensable to keep Taiwan a food self-sufficient country.

After the report was published, the president of the council of Agriculture, Taiwan’s Executive Yuan, was forced to confess that the farmland price in Taiwan is“the most expensive around the world, which makes it impossible for people to buy them.”He has promised to fix the problem by regulating the farmland transaction, and to provide more lands for young farmers to rent.

Techniques/technologies used:

The four main tools we used in this feature story are Animation, D3.js, JQuery, and Json. We used them to construct the primary structure of the website, the map of Taiwan and the farmland price data we wanted to highlight.

Besides, we designed a small interesting quiz by using the tools. It’s an interactive one, which readers can try to pick a right answer and get response.

What was the hardest part of this project?

First of all, it is not an easy task to compile and analyze the big data of 120,000 farmland transaction records. An engineer helped us to gather the necessary information from the official database, and analyzed which cities and townships have the highest growth of farmland price. Then, we highlighted these places on the map, in order to let the readers understand the issue clearly.

After that, we had to figure out why the prices soared so much in those areas. However, it was an arduous job for us to do field survey, since our subject was related to the farmland prices around different places in Taiwan.

To find out the truth about farmland price in Taiwan, six investigative journalists of Apple Daily have interviewed more than 30 farmers and senior agricultural scholars in four main areas in Taiwan, including the north, the central part, the south and the east coast.

By interviewing people around Taiwan, we were able to figure out the reasons behind the phenomenon. To sum up, the most difficult part of this feature story is that we had to compile big data and do massive field survey to discover the truth.

What can others learn from this project?

By reading our feature story, the readers would be able to learn that the farmland prices in four areas change with respective reasons. For example, the farmland price rise in Northern Taiwan is driven by the local government’s land acquisition, but in central Taiwan, it is driven by the construction of illegal factories on the farmland. Additionally, in the east coast of Taiwan, the high price is driven by the constructions of lavish cottage.

Also, the readers could search information on a map we have compiled. The map shows every township’s farmland price change, so the readers could check on his or her hometown.  

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