Sun, Jul 04, 2004 - Page 1 News List

Aid fund created for stricken farmers

By Wang Hsiao-wen  /  STAFF REPORTER

The Council of Agriculture (COA) yesterday announced that it was making NT$5 billion available for low-interest loans and cash subsidies to farmers who suffered losses due to devastation caused by Typhoon Mindulle.

"Based on the latest data we gathered before 9am this morning, we estimated that the total losses in agriculture and livestock farming amount to NT$532.35 million," council Chairman Lee Ching-lung (李金龍) said at a press conference in Taipei yesterday.

Hualien County, which suffered the most damage with losses estimated at more than NT$200 million, was declared a disaster area. Farmers in this county are eligible to apply for cash subsidies and loans at an interest rate of 1.5 percent, Lee said.

Daily downpours have wreaked havoc on rice paddies and litchi, banana and pomelo orchards. About 8,199 hectares of crops nationwide are reported to have been damaged.

The typhoon also had a devastating effect on fishery. The total losses in the fishing industry are estimated at NT$12.03 million, and 30 hectares of fish farms at Linbien (林邊) in Pingtung County were submerged by ocean swells.

According to Yu-Tsai Huang (黃有才), director-general of the COA's food and agriculture department, the cash subsidies will cover 15 percent to 20 percent of farmers' production costs.

The typhoon also drove up the price of vegetables in the areas where they are grown.

The daily vegetable stocks of the Hsi-hu (西湖) Market in Changhwa County, one of the major suppliers for the country's northern urban markets, dropped by 25 percent and vegetable prices rose an average of 5 percent.

At the First and Second Markets in Taipei, the daily vegetable reserves plummeted by 28 percent, while prices climbed 22 percent, according to the Council of Agriculture's latest statistics.

However, consumers who shop at wholesale supermarkets are unlikely to be affected by the price fluctuations before the weekend.

"We have price control mecha-nisms to protect consumers in cases of natural adversity," said Lilian Lee (李莉莉), public relations manager of Carrefour in Taiwan.

Fiona Wang (王彤芳), marketing manger of RT-Mart (大潤發), also said that vegetable prices will not edge higher before the weekend.

In an effort to rein in the rise in vegetable prices in the wake of the typhoon, the the Council of Agriculture will release 200 tonnes of refrigerated vegetables daily to replenish the market.

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