Sun, Jan 04, 2009 - Page 2 News List

Orange growers cancel plans for protest in Taipei

GLUT Now is the time to eat oranges, as the price has fallen to an extreme low, leading to lost wages for farmers who are forced to sell them below cost

STAFF WRITER, WITH CNA

A man buys low-priced oranges at a fruit market in Putai Township, Chiayi County, yesterday.

PHOTO: YANG KUO-TANG, TAIPEI TIMES

Yunlin County orange growers canceled a plan yesterday to stage a protest in Taipei to highlight record low orange prices after learning that the government would help them ride out their difficulties.

Hsu Ken-wei (許根尉), head of the Democratic Progressive Party旧 (DPP) Yunlin chapter, announced the decision along with Lin Huei-ju (林慧如), Gukeng Township (古坑) administrator.

Hsu and Lin called for the protest on Dec. 27 during talks between DPP Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) and orange growers in the township.

During the meeting, the farmers complained of low prices because of a glut on the domestic market and stagnant sales, and said the government was reluctant to assist them.

The farmers said they called for help from the Council of Agriculture (COA) more than a month ago, suggesting that the agency subsidize orange farmers who leave their land fallow or eliminate substandard fruit, cut prices for fertilizer and purchase fruit for the production of organic fertilizer.

The COA, however, showed no sign that it would answer the call until Wednesday, Hsu said.

The COA has promised to cut fertilizer prices, and from this year increase its annual subsidy from NT$120,000 (US$3,650) to NT$150,000 for each hectare of farmland left uncultivated. In addition, Yunlin County Commissioner Su Chih-fen (蘇治芬) announced on Thursday that both the COA and the county government would expand existing subsidies for sourcing fruit for conversion to organic fertilizer.

The goodwill response soothed the angry farmers, Hsu said, but added that they would continue urging the COA to increase the annual subsidy for fallow land to NT$200,000 per hectare.

Lin pointed out that although the farmers� pressing problem had been resolved, they were still very concerned about the direction of the government旧 future agricultural policy.

Prices of locally grown oranges have recently declined to below the production cost of about NT$10 per kilogram. Yunlin is one of the country旧 leading areas for orange cultivation and has over 3,400 orange orchards with an overall output of around 200,000 tonnes per year.

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