Flower growers in Tienwei (田尾) in the central county of Changhua petitioned President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) yesterday for more government support for their businesses.
The petition came after Premier Yu Shyi-kun demanded that all government agencies reduce the amount of floral decorations and banquet expenses to save public money.
Government business has long been an important source of their revenues.
The farmers presented their joint petition letter to Chen when the president was making an inspection tour of the renowned "Tienwei Highway Garden," which refers to the sprawling flower ranches along the Tienwei section of a round-the-island trunk highway.
The petition letter said advanced countries usually give their full support to the development of the national flower industry. At a time when flower growers are struggling to fight mounting foreign competition following Taiwan's recent accession to the WTO, it said, the Cabinet's new cost-cutting measures threaten their survival.
Noting that flowers are a symbol of the civilized world, the letter said floral decorations should not be regarded as an integral part of the corrupt "envelope [bribery] culture."
"The Cabinet's new frugality drive has caused panic among local flower growers," the letter said. "The phenomenon may eventually hinder local products' entry into the global market."
Chen didn't make a direct response to the petition. Instead, he lauded Tienwei as the island's most beautiful place. The president also said he is convinced that local people will spend more on floral purchases in the years ahead.
"I hope local people will use fresh flowers to beautify their balconies, rooftops and dinner tables. Floral decorations can contribute to making our society more harmonious and enrich our everyday lives," Chen said.
He recognized the Changhua County Government's decision to develop the county into a heartland for the national floral industry. "I believe that Taiwan can compete with other countries in floral exports. We must employ advanced biotechnology to further improve our floral research and development."
Chen added that the central government would assist the Changhua County Government in integrating local flower farms and exchanging cultivating skills.
"The government will also encourage other major flower-planting areas around the island to learn from Tienwei to boost the industry," Chen said. "We'll make flowers one of Taiwan's star industries."
Tienwei is Taiwan's largest floral center in terms of both production quantity and planting acreage. Taiwan now has more than 11,000 hectares of flower farms and Tienwei accounts for more than 5,000 hectares.
Earlier in the day, Chen attended a ceremony held at Changhau's most popular camping ground -- Chingshuiyen -- in celebration of Boy Scouts' Day.
In his capacity as president of the Boy Scouts in Taiwan, Chen recognized the Boy Scouts' contribution to local society and the nation.