Fri, Aug 24, 2007 - Page 4 News List

Dispute erupts over aid to farmers

By Angelica Oung  /  STAFF REPORTER

Typhoon Sepat not only left pomelo orchards carpeted with fallen fruits in its wake, but also left a bitter dispute between the Council of Agriculture (COA) and Hualien County Government officials over how much compensation farmers whose crops were devastated should receive.

The pomelo crops were on the cusp of being ready for market when the typhoon and subsequent storms hit. Estimates of loss range from 60 percent to 90 percent of the crop, a Hualien Bureau of Agriculture bureaucrat said.

Yesterday, opposition party politicians joined Hualien County's top official in the Bureau of Agriculture in accusing the council of flip-flopping on proposed measures to compensate the pomelo farmers.

Up to 90 percent of the pomelo crop in Hualien has been damaged, Bureau Director Du Li-hua (杜麗華) said.

"We find the council's paltry level of compensation hard to accept given the level of damage in Hualien," she said.

"There has been little evidence that they care," she said.

Du estimates that the average damage to orchards at NT$600,000 to NT$700,000 per hectare.

Du claimed that on Monday when Premier Chang Chun-hsiung (張俊雄) visited the devastated area, negotiations between Hualien officials and COA officials agreed upon a sum of NT$50,000 an acre for technical assistance in addition to NT$50,000 cash.

The Cabinet has since dismissed the claim.

Outlining aid for pomelo farmers in Hualien and Taitung, Agriculture and Food Agency Director Huang Yu-psai (黃有才) said it proposed compensating the farmers with cash at a rate of NT$50,000 per hectare, in addition to purchasing fallen fruit for NT$3 per kg.

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