Thu, Oct 11, 2007 - Page 12 News List

Council suggests duties to protect local tea farmers

STAFF WRITER

The Council of Agriculture has suggested that the Ministry of Economic Affairs impose anti-dumping duties on tea from Vietnam, saying that low-priced imports have heavily damaged local tea farmers, a report in the Chinese-language Economic Daily said yesterday, marking the first anti-dumping investigation into agriculture products since Taiwan joined the WTO.

Losses by tea farmers in Nantou County, the nation's major tea production area, have reached the standard threshold for import relief, the report said, citing unnamed council officials.

The council plans to issue NT$140 million in relief funds to the county's farmers, the report said.

The council calculated the figure on an index that measures industry damage.

The index for Nantou tea farmers, which reflects the growth rate of imports and the effect on prices for locally produced tea, ranges from 15 percent to 27 percent, it said.

An industry damage index of more than 10 percent indicates "evident losses," while an index exceeding 20 percent indicates "serious damage."

It is estimated that the collective losses incurred as a result of cheap tea imports are equivalent to the loss of 3,000 hectares of tea crops, the report said.

The price of fresh tea leaves in the area has dropped by 6 percent from three years ago, the report said.

The report also said that a large portion of tea imports allegedly from Vietnam are actually produced in China and sent to Vietnam for export, the report said, citing a jump in production as evidence.

Imports of Vietnamese tea totaled 1,444 tonnes in 2005, but the volume rocketed 61 percent to 2,330 tonnes last year. The report said the area used for farming tea in Vietnam could not account for the surge in production, suggesting that Chinese tea was being included in the figure as Vietnamese.

The council had handed the case to the International Trade Commission under the Ministry of Economic Affairs for investigation, it said.

If the probe confirms a disruption in the market because of imports from Vietnam, the ministry could increase tariffs on the tea or set an import quota to protect the interests of local tea farmers, the report said.

The nation's industries have suffered since joining the WTO in 2002 from a flood of imports, particularly from China.

In June last year, the government imposed a provisional anti-dumping tax of 237.7 percent -- on top of an existing tariff of 10.5 percent -- on towels imported from China.

In March, it imposed an anti-dumping tax of 43.46 percent on footwear from China.

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