Mon, Jan 07, 2008 - Page 2 News List

COA includes betel nut in aid program to promote switch

STAFF WRITER , WITH CNA

The Council of Agriculture (COA) has recently included betel nut growers among its relief program recipients for agricultural losses from natural disasters in an effort to reduce the number of trees planted.

COA Vice Minister Lee Jen-chyuan (李健全) said the new measure is aimed at controlling betel nut tree plantations around the country and encouraging growers to replace their trees with other cash crops, like coffee, Lee said after the measure triggered concerns that farmers would actually be encouraged to plant more betel nut trees.

With limited land, betel nut growers on the island have planted trees on hillsides, which have proven harmful to soil and water conservation.

A few years ago, the COA began a policy of "not encouraging, not assisting and not supporting" betel nut production, Lee said.

Under the new relief program, the COA has promised to subsidize betel nut producers who intend to replace their crops with other kinds of plants, Lee said.

Meanwhile, the COA has also launched a program to encourage farmers to grow corn feed on fallow land to cope with rising international feed prices.

Under the program launched at the start of the year, the COA is offering up to NT$45,000 (US$1,390) per harvest on a contract basis to farmers for each hectare of corn feed that they plant.

In the first growing season of this year, a total of 10,000 hectares of corn feed will be planted around Taiwan, the COA said.

Local farmers' associations have been employed to assist farmers in applying to join the program, COA officials said, adding that the local associations are also responsible for helping farmers market their crop.

COA officials said international corn feed prices have been gradually rising since early last year, which has led to increased operating costs for local livestock and poultry farmers.

They said that the program has been launched to help reduce Taiwan's reliance on foreign feed grains, lower livestock and poultry farmers' costs, and achieve the government's goal of increasing the efficiency of fallow agricultural fields around the country.

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