By Huang Mei-chu and Sherry Hsiao / Staff reporter, with staff writer
Farmer Liu Shih-lee （劉仕李）, 91, has designed red lantern-like protective covers for the Japanese Hosui pears he grows in Hsinchu County’s Sinpu Township （新埔） to lower production costs in a competitive market.
The most challenging type of pear he grows is the Hosui cultivar, which is vulnerable to cold rainwater and fog, Liu said.
Before, he used the traditional protective method — a type of specialized “umbrella,” he said.
However, each small umbrella costs at least NT$14, he said, adding that of the more than 300 pear trees on a 1 hectare plot, more than 60 are Hosui trees and require this kind of protection.
That would translate into at least 3,500 umbrellas, which costs far too much, Liu said.
Farmers’ incomes are limited, but consumers want to purchase inexpensive but high-quality products, Liu said, adding that the only chance to meet market expectations is to try to lower production costs as much as possible.
After brainstorming with his son, they thought of using disposable bowls and chopsticks to replace the umbrellas, Liu said.
Using a combination of disposable chopsticks, plastic bowls and fastening bands, Liu said he lowered the cost of protecting each pear to less than NT$1.
The disposable tableware is also convenient to store and can be reused every year, Liu added.
Liu started growing pears with his father when he was young, he said, adding that half of his 2 hectares of land in the Nanping Borough （南平） mountains is still being used to cultivate the fruit.