Thu, Jun 16, 2005 - Page 2 News List

Farmers can look beyond China

EXPORT MARKETS Agricultural products exported to the US, Japan and Singapore can fetch much higher prices than those sold in China, the president said yesterday

By Huang Tai-lin  /  STAFF REPORTER

A model holds up two papayas at a Council of Agriculture press conference yesterday. The council said that after passing quarantine inspections in both Japan and Taiwan, as well as many years of negotiations, Taiwan can now export papayas to Japan that have been disinfected through heating. President Chen Shui-bian yesterday said farmers should consider markets such as Japan, where their products fetch higher prices.

PHOTO: CHEN TSEH-MING, TAIPEI TIMES

Saying that participation in the WTO had brought Taiwan to the global market, President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) yesterday hinted that China should not be viewed as the sole market for the nation's products.

"Taiwan is an island, however it cannot remain insular. It needs to embrace a new mindset in this era of globalization," Chen said.

"Joining the WTO is a global trend. Taiwan's participation in the WTO opens it to the world market, as well as opening the whole world's market to Taiwan," the president added.

He called on the nation's farmers to have confidence in their products, saying that "so long as Taiwan's produce guarantee quality, we are not afraid of competition."

The president made the remarks yesterday after viewing the documentary Let it Be (無米樂) at the Presidential Office.

The film, which won the Image-Taiwan Award at the Fourth Taiwan International Documentary Festival last year, depicted the labor of farmers tending their crops against the backdrop of an unpredictable Mother Nature.

Vice President Annette Lu (呂秀蓮), Council of Agriculture Chairman Lee Chin-lung (李金龍) and farmers who were featured in the documentary were invited by the president to join him at the viewing yesterday.

The president cited statistics to counter claims often made by opposition parties of the potential for big profits for farmers from fruit exports to China.

Chen said that Taiwanese mangos exported to Japan could be sold for US$4 per kilogram, while those sent to China sold for US$0.70 per kilogram.

"Japan, Singapore and the US are all very good markets [for Taiwan's produce]," Chen said.

According to Chen, the export value of Taiwan's agricultural produce reached US$3.5 billion last year.

New produce this year will be rice and papaya, which have passed the appropriate tests and can now be exported to Japan, he said.

The president praised the farmers' hard work and devotion in caring for the crops and the land.

"Taiwanese farmers' deep love for this land is the same as the love that generations in Taiwan harbor toward the land," he added.

Chen said that he was willing to listen to the views of the farmers and encouraged them to speak their minds.

He added that the government, in recognition of the contribution the farmers have made to the country, in 2003 raised farmers' pensions from NT$3,000 per month to NT$4,000 per month.

Lu also spoke to the audience, and said she had been touched by the documentary.

"Those who complain about their meals should apologize" in view of the strenuous work by the farmers in minding their crops, she said.

"I suggest this documentary be sent to Taiwan's No.1 tycoon so he can watch it, for his words have truly hurt people's feelings," she added.

Lu did not name who she was speaking about, but she appeared to be referring to comments made on Tuesday by Hon Hai Precision Industry Co chairman Terry Gou (郭台銘), who strongly criticized the government's plan to levy a minimum tax on high-income earners.

"There is much unfairness in society, there needs to be more justice," she said.

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