Thu, Jan 16, 2003 - Page 10 News List

WTO entry has produce prices falling

By Kevin Chen  /  STAFF WRITER

Taiwan has seen prices for locally grown agricultural products fall since entering the WTO last January, Council of Agriculture Chairman Lee Chin-lung (李金龍) said yesterday at a year-end press conference.

"During the first year of our WTO entry, rice prices have been quite volatile, with a major price drop occurring in the last quarter because of market expectations of increased imports," Lee said.

Overall prices rose 2.61 percent year-on-year, Lee added.

In line with its WTO agreements, Taiwan imported 147,720 tonnes of rice last year and will raise that ceiling 2 percent each year, said Ku Te-yeh (古德業), a council office director-general.

All rice imported within the quota limit will be exempt from import tariffs, but any amount over the quota will be surcharged NT$45 per kilogram, Ku said.

"The new system will better safeguard the interests of domestic rice growers," he added.

An influx of imports saw prices of fruits and vegetables fall 19 percent last year, according to Lee.

To stem further price declines, Lee encouraged people to consume more locally grown produce. The council is also planning to focus on strengthening marketing of the nation's farm products overseas and on eliminating non-trade barriers such as quarantine restrictions with foreign countries, he said.

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