Tue, Jun 12, 2012 - Page 8 News List

Agriculture should not be ignored

By Du Yu 杜宇

Recently, heavy rainfall caused the highway between Suao and Hualien to collapse again, cutting off traffic and immediately impacting the transportation of agricultural products out of Hualien.

In order to ensure that farmers did not see their precious crops go to waste, local students and civic groups started an initiative in which train passengers helped transport vegetables by rail in the hope of alleviating some of the farmers’ distribution problems. This initiative garnered support from the public, but was also met with some resistance from farmers who believed it could cause wholesalers to stop buying their produce, which would result in the collapse of local vegetable prices.

In all fairness, it is a good thing that university students left their computers to join the real world out of concern for the livelihoods of farmers and other disadvantaged groups. Their actions are something society as a whole should applaud. This is also a good way to encourage the youth to become concerned with what is going on around them and it could be helpful in eradicating the widely held stereotype that younger generations do not care about society. It could also be useful in encouraging more youth to enter the agricultural industry.

However, the initiative only had a limited effect on the problem and was probably more useful in highlighting the problems the region faces than in resolving the transportation issue. It also created many new problems, like how to choose which products to transport while ensuring that everyone gets equal assistance, how to transport the produce and ensuring that people did not sell what they had transported.

These are all problems that university students who are still not fully participating members of society are probably are incapable of giving thorough consideration to before undertaking an exercise of this kind. This is excusable and, like the issue of farmers being continually exploited by wholesalers, things may look simple on the surface, but the conflicting interests involved are complex.

Regardless of whether the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) or the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) is in power, all that either political party has done is chant a bunch of slogans while lacking the resolve to implement any significant reforms to put agricultural production, distribution and sale systems back on track to ease the plight of troubled farmers.

Furthermore, competition between political parties often complicates the simples matters and blurs the lines which separate governmental responsibilities.

Agricultural products from Hualien are generally well received and trusted by consumers. However, due to regional topographical limitations, transportation to other areas is often affected by natural disasters — the most recent road network shutdown was not the first disruption and it will not be the last. Farmers in Hualien experience such problems almost on an almost annual basis, but all they can do is put up with them, especially now that climate change is causing stronger typhoons, heavier flooding and more extreme droughts. Typhoons alone are no longer the only meteorological challenge confronting farmers, heavy rain can just as easily cut off Hualien’s transportation links to the outside world and this is happening with ever-increasing frequency.

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