The plight of a 69-year-old farmer who attempted to commit suicide after being unable to salvage his crops in time to avoid further damage caused by the recent rains has attracted officials’ attention to the delayed delivery of mechanical reapers to farmers.
The Chinese-language United Daily News yesterday reported that the farmer from Dounan Township (斗南) in Yunlin County, surnamed Lin (林), drank pesticide in a fit of despair the night after he had waited in vain for mechanical reapers that never arrived.
Lin was one of many farmers in the country rushing to harvest their crops after the heavy downpours that started on June 10 and continued when Tropical Storm Talim hit the country last week, causing flooding that damaged more than 2,400 hectares of rice paddies in the county.
Local media reported that Lin had been found by his son after drinking a 0.5 liter bottle of pesticide on Saturday. Lin was rushed to a hospital for emergency treatment and was transferred yesterday to a non-intensive care ward, still suffering from bleeding of the stomach.
Premier Sean Chen (陳冲) yesterday told reporters that the problem did not lie in a lack of mechanical reapers, but in the scheduling process for their use.
If the Yunlin County Government had better coordinated the dispatch of mechanical reapers to its farmers, they would have been available to them in time to save more crops, he said.
Taiwan has 2,042 mechanical reapers available for rent and Yunlin County has 200 of those, Chen said.
Separately, Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Hsueh Ling (薛凌) said the Ministry of National Defense should send soldiers to help with harvesting.
Ministry spokesman Major General David Lo (羅紹和) responded to Hsueh’s call by pointing out that it was the responsibility of local governments to help with the harvest work.
He also said that the downsizing of the military in recent years and the shortening of mandatory military service means the ministry can no longer provide assistance to farmers as it did in the 1970s and 1980s.
In addition, most soldiers now are unfamiliar with farm work, Lo said.
According to the Council of Agriculture, rice losses since June 10 had reached NT$218.05 million (US$7.28 million) as of yesterday, while total agricultural losses stood at NT$976.63 million.
Additional reporting by CNA