Wed, Mar 27, 2002 - Page 4 News List

Premier's flower ban has grown into heated debate

POLICY BOOMERANG KMT lawmakers are leading protests for the farmers, who in general used to grow rice before the KMT government pursuaded them to plant flowers

By Stephanie Low  /  STAFF REPORTER

Local flower growers are already suffering great losses from over-production, but growers blame Premier Yu Shyi-kun's recent move -- to ban government agencies from spending public funds on flowers -- for worsening the problem.

KMT lawmakers Cho Po-yuan (卓伯源) and Chen Chieh (陳杰), both elected in Changhua County where most of Taiwan's flowers are grown, yesterday urged Yu to reconsider the policy -- so as to better protect the livelihoods of flower growers around the nation.

Government agencies usually have budgets earmarked for public relations purposes, and there is no guarantee that the money will not be spent on other gifts just because buying flowers with public funds is prohibited, Cho said.

It is unreasonable for the Executive Yuan to discriminate against those that grow flowers, he said.

To help flower growers, Cho announced that the KMT will cooperate with Changhua flower planters to hold a flower sale at the square in front of the party's headquarters in Taipei today -- and the flowers will be sold for only around half of their market price.

The new policy, which was adopted by the premier as part of the Executive Yuan's plan to practice thrift, has triggered strong protest from many flower planters around Taiwan, especially those from Tienwei township, Changhua County.

Changhua County, the coun-try's largest flower-producing region, has 5,096 hectares of flower plantations.

And Tienwei township has won itself the name of "flower kingdom," with half of its farmlands used to plant flowers, producing over 50 million blooms every year.

While up to 49 percent of the flowers planted in Tienwei are chrysanthemums, gladiolus is another kind of flower that is commonly seen in the area, covering 13 percent of the area's flower plantations.

Other kinds of flowers grown in Tienwei include carnations, roses and lilies.

Flower growers were generally considered to have suffered the least from Taiwan's accession to the WTO. But over-production and the slow economy have hurt Taiwan's flower prices since the year began.

Flower prices have been sliding after Chinese New Year, and a large number of flowers had to be dumped by the growers in an effort to safeguard prices.

According to analysts, flowers have been over-produced this year, after many people who lost their city jobs in the bad economy came back to their home counties to earn a living from farming.

Many of these people have opted to plant flowers because of the crop's past economic viability.

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