Wed, Jul 20, 2005 - Page 10 News List

Fair-trade agency officials monitoring vegetable prices

By Jackie Lin  /  STAFF REPORTER

Prices of vegetables and fruit surged by a dramatic 60 percent due to a shortage of supplies from central and southern Taiwan yesterday, but the Fair Trade Commission has vowed to hunt down anyone who forces up prices.

Wholesale markets and most traditional wet markets were closed on Monday when Typhoon Haitang raged across the nation with strong winds and torrential rains. This also hampered the transport of some truckloads of produce from farmland in the south.

Supply shortage

As a result, only a total of 760 tonnes of vegetables and fruit were brought into Taipei yesterday, down from the normal 1,200 to 1,300 tonnes, according to Wang Jen-shiao (王振霄), chief secretary of the Taipei Markets Administration Office (台北市市場管理處).

The supply shortage drove the average price for produce up to NT$36.65 (US$1.15) per kilogram, up from NT$33 on Sunday and NT$23 on ordinary days, he said.

In particular, the price of green onions more than tripled, to NT$300 per kilogram, while tomatoes and sweet peppers retailed for double their usual price.

"Produce prices have been fluctuating at a higher level over the past month as heavy rains and Typhoon Haitang took a toll in the production areas," Wang said.

He expected that it would take two to four weeks before prices fall back to normal.

Back-up supplies

According to the Council of Agriculture, the government has about 2,964 tonnes of vegetables in cold storage and it released 301 tonnes yesterday to supply retailers.

At 5pm yesterday, the nation had recorded more than NT$2.61 billion (US$81.75 million) in agricultural losses, including damage to crops and livestock, as well as aquatic and forest resources, the council said on its Web site. Of these, crop losses amounted to NT$2.34 billion, with 27 percent of farmland damaged by the typhoon.

Although prices might edge up due to supply shortages, the Fair Trade Commission has dispatched personnel to monitor trading among distributors and look for any improper dealings, such as monopolizing of markets or restricting trading to certain retailers.

Penalties

"We urge sellers to abide by the Fair Trade Act (公平交易法). Violators will face a fine of between NT$50,000 and NT$25 million, as well as a maximum jail sentence of three years," commission vice chairman Yu Chao-chuan (余朝權) said.

In response, Wang said the likelihood of prices being maliciously manipulated should be minimal as trading is carried out using a transparent, computerized mechanism.

"Even if some had planned to hoard produce before the typhoon came, it's not possible for them to store up a great volume of vegetables in two or three days. I think it's natural that prices rise from scarce supplies," Wang said.

This story has been viewed 2480 times.
TOP top