To curb soaring prices of several varieties of rice, the Council of Agriculture (COA) yesterday released 13,800 tonnes of rice onto the market and Premier Wu Den-yih (吳敦義) asked officials to keep a close eye on price changes over the coming months.
Council Deputy Minister Huang Yu-tsai (黃有才) briefed the Cabinet on the matter amid public complaints over rising rice prices and a government increase in the purchase price of rice, which has been criticized as benefiting rice dealers rather than farmers.
After visiting some farmers in Chiayi County, President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) announced on April 24 a NT$3 (US$0.10) per kilogram increase to the government’s purchasing price to help farmers offset the increasing cost of fertilizers and the rising prices of daily commodities.
A proposal presented by Huang showed that after the announcement, wholesale rice prices increased from NT$20.06 per kilogram to NT$23.76 per kilogram, a rise of about 15 percent.
The adjustment cost national coffers an additional NT$600 million, which is to be funded by the Second Reserve Fund, itself initially earmarked for emergency relief.
Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Wong Chin-chu (翁金珠), among others, called a press conference to criticize the government’s rice purchasing policy, saying it had driven up retail rice prices.
Wong also said funding by the council to the Taipei City Government for the just-concluded -Taipei International Flora Expo were so high that it now did not have enough money to provide subsidies to farmers.
The council was unable to draw the NT$600 million from its own budget and had to request an appropriation from the emergency relief fund.
The council spent NT$3.5 billion on the flora expo, the DPP said.
Huang dismissed the allegations, saying the council had not earmarked a budget for the Taipei City Government in this year’s budget plan.