Mon, Jul 05, 2004 - Page 10 News List

Typhoon damage to crops pushes up vegetable prices

PRODUCE The damage done to vegetable crops and fruit harvests by the storm will create a mild shortage in some areas, but prices should fall later this month

By Tina Yuan  /  CONTRIBUTING REPORTER

Vegetable vendors sell their produce in Hsinchu County yesterday. Vegetable prices have increased sharply after Typhoon Mindulle.

PHOTO: CHEN WEI-JEN, TAIPEI TIMES

Torrential rains and landslides brought by Typhoon Mindulle have caused an estimated NT$1.46 billion in crop damage, pushing wholesale prices for vegetables up by nearly 50 percent on average yesterday.

At the First and Second Fruit and Vegetable Markets in Taipei, 681 tonnes of vegetables were traded yesterday, down 23 percent from a day earlier, the Council of Agriculture said in a statement.

Wholesale prices for vegetables, however, increased to NT$27.5 per kilogram on average, up from NT$18.21 per kilogram on Saturday, the council added.

The steepest increase yesterday was on water spinach, which rose from around NT$17 per kilogram to NT$85 per kilogram, according to Taipei Agricultural Products Marketing Co (台北農產運銷公司).

Prices for Chinese cabbage and Chinese kitam also rose, from NT$15 per kilogram to NT$50 per kilogram, according to the company.

The semi-official company, managed by the Taipei City Government, said around 700 tonnes of vegetables were shipped into the city yesterday, compared with an average supply of 1,200 tonnes to 1,500 tonnes before the typhoon.

The reduced shipment was due to difficulties in harvesting crops and transportation amid heavy rains in mountainous areas, the council said.

To ease a possible shortage in vegetables, the council said it was coordinating with farmers' organizations to release a total of 219 tonnes of frozen vegetables into the market yesterday, and will distribute frozen produce to consumers through wholesale markets, supermarkets and hypermarkets.

There are 4,809 tonnes of frozen vegetables left in stock, the council added.

A shopkeeper at Matsusei (松青超市) supermarket on Nanking E. Road in Taipei said that vegetable prices have increased 25 percent on average due to the typhoon's impact.

A customer surnamed Lee at Matsusei said that vegetable prices at supermarkets are not as expensive as those at traditional markets.

"Compared with the traditional markets, prices here [at Matsusei] are reasonable," she said.

The council said the shortage of vegetables is not expected to ease until later this month. Besides vegetables, harvests of fruit such as bananas, papayas, grapes, mangoes and pears were also damaged, it added.

The wholesale price increases have pushed some retailers to re-label prices on their produce.

"The prices of vegetables and cabbages have been mildly marked up, by 10 percent," said Lillian Lee (李莉莉), a public relations manager at Carrefour. "Since we have sufficient stocks, which were directly delivered from the production sites, the price fluctuation is under control."

Compared with the unstable prices in traditional markets, hypermarkets provide customers with relatively stable prices, another retailer said.

"We would like to offer our customers a fair price, for stocks are ample," said Fiona Wang (王彤芳), marketing manager of RT-Mart. But she said that prices could change daily, as the typhoon destroyed some crops and production prices are expected to fluctuate a great deal over the next few days.

Wellcome's chief operations officer, Howard Tsai (蔡裕人), seconded Wang's assertion that the price will be adjusted according to the vegetable supply and consumer reaction alike.

During times of hardship, "we try to satisfy our patrons with other vegetables or imported cabbages instead," Tsai said.

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