Mon, Jun 11, 2018 - Page 6 News List

EDITORIAL: Quick fix not enough to solve gluts

The Council of Agriculture, several local governments and a number of corporations have begun preparations to sell tonnes of bananas to help farmers deal with a glut. However, with the situation recurring almost every year in Taiwan, and with the problem extending to other types of fruit such as pineapples and lychees this year, it raises questions about what has gone wrong with farming in this country and whether the government has any strategy for dealing with the problem that is more effective than pursuing short-term marketing campaigns.

Last week, the council announced that it would prop up the price of bananas in the shortest time possible by boosting sales domestically and overseas, and by using them for processed foods. The council also said that it plans to introduce an insurance system to guarantee banana farmers’ incomes later this year.

Yet, why has the price of bananas plunged to below NT$10 per kilogram when the harvest for the year to date is set to be 1 percent lower than for the same period last year? Have the agricultural authorities and farmers not learned from experience and imposed a control on banana production? Apart from supply concerns, does the sudden plunge in prices have something to do with lower demand from local consumers and export markets due to poorer quality?

Actually, the unseasonably hot weather and copious precipitation last month not only pushed the nation’s peak electricity consumption higher, but also accelerated the growth of in-season fruits such as bananas and pineapples, as it shortened their ripening period, which led to a slump in prices amid a bountiful harvest.

Taiwan’s weather patterns — such as the scorching heat in summer and intense cold in winter, as well as dry seasons that are getting drier and rainy seasons that are getting wetter — have become even more extreme than before and are hitting farmers much harder than agricultural experts predicted.

In an annual report released in November last year at the UN Climate Change Conference in Bonn, Germany, Taiwan ranked seventh among nations most severely affected by climate change, up from 51st in 2016.

Studies have indicated that global warming and climate change, as well as human activity, are the reasons behind extreme weather patterns, which have become more frequent and severe in recent decades. Taiwan’s vulnerability to extreme weather is likely to only increase further, if a concerted effort is not made to deal with the climate issue as soon as possible and if a low-carbon, “green” growth strategy fails to grab the public and corporate sector’s attention.

The government needs to provide farmers, who generally lack adequate knowledge about climate change, with better early warning and weather information, help them cope with climate risks with new farming technology and make Taiwan’s farming sector more resilient and eco-friendly.

Even though farmers feel the effects of extreme weather almost every year and the resulting volatility in produce prices, their fate also depends on whether they can cooperate with the authorities to control crop production.

The existing management and control systems in seeding supply and crop production do not seem up to the task and the government needs to come up with a more effective alternative to prevent history from repeating itself. To avoid seeing the prices of produce go up and down like a roller coaster, agricultural authorities need to coordinate with farming cooperatives and trading companies, while ensuring that farmers do not blindly grow their produce, so that healthy supply-and-demand dynamics can be maintained.

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