Tue, Sep 06, 2011 - Page 1 News List

Agricultural incomes reach lowest in five years: DGBAS report

By Chung Li-hua  /  Staff Reporter

Despite claims by President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration that the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) would boost agricultural development, agricultural income has dropped to a five-year low, with agricultural GDP falling NT$13 billion (US$448 million) from NT$2.1 trillion in 2009.

In an investigation into household income for last year, the Directorate-General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics (DGBAS) said “farmstead income” stood at NT$884,000, or 76 percent of the income for non--farming families.

Though there was a slight increase of 1.4 percent from 2009, the investigation showed that the increase was in “non--agricultural income,” which rose from NT$676,000 in 2009 to NT$691,000 last year, accounting for about 80 percent of agricultural income.

As for agricultural profits for farming families, after the Council of Agriculture modified the DGBAS figures, the figure stood at NT$193,000, declining 8 percent in about two years and representing NT$3,000 less than last year.

Assuming 3.5 persons for each farming household, per-person income did not amount to NT$55,000 last year, the report said, adding that accounting for those who had left their fields fallow all year, income on agricultural products was only NT$130,000 annually, with total family income at NT$869,000.

Huang Kun-pin (黃崑濱), better known as “Uncle Kun-pin,” said farming was a profession that was “hard both during a good harvest and a bad crop,” adding that if it were not for the NT$6,000 farmers’ subsidy, he did not know what he would live on.

Turning to comments by Council of Agriculture Deputy Minister Huang Yu-tsai (黃有才), who has said that “farmers only work an hour a day,” Huang Kun-pin said he would invite the deputy minister to experience first-hand how farmers live.

Chuang Yu-chih (莊有志), an award-winning rice farmer, said while he had turned 62 this year, he was the youngest farmer in the village.

Who would want to come back and farm when a farmer’s income is so low, Chuang asked.

National Taiwan University agricultural economics professor Woo Rhung-jieh (吳榮杰) said that taking inflation and the consumer price index into account, farmers’ income was even lower, showing that Ma’s campaign promise in 2008 that “agricultural income would exceed NT$1 million in four years” had “bounced.”

As there were no significant agricultural disasters last year, the decline in agricultural income was most likely caused by declining prices, Wu said, adding that in accordance with trade theory, liberalization would drive prices toward equalization.

The falling prices for agricultural products are related to the signing of the ECFA and close ties with China, Wu said.

Taiwan Rural Front spokeswoman Tsai Pei-hui (蔡培慧) also said that current agricultural polices were not helping efforts to improve the production environment and were only taking care of special flagship productions, while disregarding smaller farmers.

Tsai said the council’s own Farming Families’ Economical Investigation Report was suppressed because the figures in it looked bad, adding that such behavior was not helpful for the development of Taiwan’s agriculture.

The council responded to Tsai’s criticism by saying that farming income statistics did not accurately reflect the high added value in the agricultural industry and that it would seek to reinforce the industry and increase its competitive edge.

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