Wed, Oct 25, 2006 - Page 2 News List

Farmers ask for help against competition from Chinese oysters

By Flora Wang  /  STAFF REPORTER

Democratic Progressive Party legislators Lin Chung-mo, left, and Hou Shui-sheng, center, eat raw oysters in a show of support for oyster farmers from Fangyuan Township, Changhua County, as they demonstrate outside the Legislative Yuan yesterday to demand that the government stop imports of oysters from China.

PHOTO: SEAN CHAO, TAIPEI TIMES

A group of oyster farmers from Changhua County yesterday pleaded for help from the government, asking it to save the livelihood of oyster farmers facing competition from China.

Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Lin Chung-mo (林重謨), who led the oyster farmers to hold a press conference yesterday at the Legislative Yuan, said the importation and smuggling of Chinese oysters has created an economic crisis for Taiwanese oyster farmers.

Chinese oysters are usually sold for half the price of Taiwanese oysters, but they usually contain unknown chemicals or preservatives so that they last longer, which threatens food safety, he said.

The unsafeness of Chinese oysters also discourages consumers from buying oysters in local markets, because it is difficult to tell the difference between Chinese and Taiwanese oysters, Lin said, adding that this has delivered a blow to local oyster farmers.

Changhua Farmers' Rights Association president Hung Wen-jung (洪文榮) said the problem is not unique to Changhua oyster farmers, but was common to farmers throughout the nation.

It has been difficult for Taiwan-ese oysters to compete with Chinese oysters, he said.

Lin demanded that the Coast Guard Administration (CGA) and the Fisheries Agency increase inspections of fishing boats to prevent smuggling, and that the Council of Agriculture (COA) strengthen inspections to prevent illicit Chinese oysters from being sold in markets.

The Department of Health should also conduct stricter product inspections, to prevent food safety violations like a recent incident involving crabs, in which several batches of hairy crabs from China were found to contain excessive carcinogens, he said.

In response, CGA Minister Wang Chin-wang (王進旺) said that the administration has taken measures to combat smuggling from China, such as encouraging farmers to provide tip-offs to coastal patrol offices and escorting fishermen to where they store their fish catch, to make sure they do not smuggle products.

Shieh Dah-wen (謝大文), director-general of the Fisheries Agency said the COA has been promoting a distinguishable labeling of produce.

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