Minister-designate of the Council of Agriculture Chen Wu-hsiung (陳武雄) said yesterday that the incoming Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) administration would maintain the restrictions on the import of 830 agricultural products from China, including garlic and peanuts, in order to protect local farmers’ interests.
Chen made the remarks in an interview with the Central News Agency, during which he said both sides of the Taiwan Strait should seek to promote bilateral economic and trade exchanges under the so-called “1992 consensus.”
The “1992 consensus” was a term coined by former KMT Mainland Affairs Council chairman Su Chi (蘇起) in 2000 to describe a tacit understanding reportedly reached in Hong Kong in 1992 between Taiwan and China to skirt sovereignty issues in cross-strait talks.
Taiwan currently allows imports of 1,467 farm products from China, but the new KMT government will not lift the restrictions on the importation of another 830 products, such as garlic, peanuts, dried mushrooms and rice, Chen said.
He suggested that the best way to protect farmers’ interests is for Taiwan and China to open up their markets to each other’s products based upon their respective market demands, instead of filing complaints against each other at the WTO.
Touching on his work agenda after he assumes his post on May 20, Chen said spiraling international food prices have brought about social instability in many countries, therefore he will give top priority to stabilizing food supplies and to ensuring food safety, so as to take care of local consumers and farmers.
He said should domestic fuel prices be raised after the inauguration of the new government on May 20, the council would earmark funds to subsidize fuel for fishermen so that they can continue to operate their fishing boats.
He also promised to push for the early passage of a draft rural community renovation bill and an amendment to the National Pension Act (國民年金法) to protect farmer’s rights and interests.
“As the National Pension Act will go into effect on Oct. 1, the council will ask all legislative caucuses to support an amendment aimed at preventing an increase in the insurance premiums paid by local farmers,” Chen said.
Under the new pension system, which will replace the farmers’ insurance program, farmers under the age of 65 will see their government-run farmers health insurance plan transferred to the national insurance system and they will have to pay more in premiums, while the birth subsidy will be canceled and the death subsidy reduced.
Describing a draft statute for rural community renovation as part of a third-stage farmland reform project, Chen said that the incoming administration would invest a total of NT$150 billion (US$4.6 billion) over the next 10 years.
Chen said the council would help local farmers to effectively use 22 hectares of fallow farmland, replenish 60,000 hectares of forests over the next eight years and set up three large forest amusement parks.