Fri, Jan 09, 2009 - Page 2 News List

Government stocks of rice released to stabilize prices

STAFF WRITER, WITH CNA

The government has twice released rice stocks and will do so again if necessary to help stabilize the price of the grain, Council of Agriculture (COA) officials said on Wednesday, after the price of rice jumped to a record high on Tuesday.

COA Vice Minister Wang Cheng-teng (王政騰) said domestic rice prices have stabilized since the council released a total of nearly 9,000 tonnes of the grain stored in state warehouses in two batches — 3,000 tonnes on Dec. 25, and 5,900 tonnes on Tuesday.

“The COA will continue making efforts to help keep the price of rice below NT$40 per kilogram,” he said.

The rice price surged to a record high of NT$40 per kilogram on Tuesday on the retail market — more than 10 percent higher than the year earlier.

COA officials attributed the price hike to weather factors, such as typhoons, and the rising cost of fertilizers, electricity and water. As a result, the yield from the second harvest of unpolished rice last year was down by 50,000 tonnes compared with the average level, they said.

An average increase of NT$2 per kilogram in the guaranteed purchase price offered by the government to farmers, as well as higher international rice prices, also helped push up prices on the domestic retail market, they added.

The COA said it still has rice stocks of about 300,000 tonnes.

Meanwhile, a Chiayi County official said that although rice prices have spiked, it was distributors rather than farmers who have cashed in on the increase.

“Although the price of rice rose to NT$39 per kilogram at the end of last year from an average of NT$33 over the past year, farmers have not benefited from the increase because the government purchased the crop from them at a low price of NT$23 per kilogram,” said Lien Chung-yun (連忠勇), chief of the county’s agricultural affairs bureau.

Tu Chin-jung (?a), a farmer devoted to organic rice growing in Luyeh Village (鹿野) in Taitung County, said “farmers have not benefited from the surging rice prices at all, and they still need to tighten their belts.”

Suspecting that “speculators might be manipulating rice prices,” Tu asked, “Why have rice prices gone up now — two to three months after the second harvest of last year?”

“It is not logical that rice distributors have raised the price now,” he said.

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