Because the latest figures from the Directorate-General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics (DGBAS) show farmers are making little money, while the farming population is ageing, academics say that agriculture can become sustainable only when farmers could earn a reasonable income.
DGBAS figures from 2009 — the statistics for last year are not ready yet — show the average annual income for a farming household dropped to the second-lowest level in 14 years and was only a little higher than in 2002, when Taiwan entered the WTO. In addition, DGBAS figures also show that, in 20 years, the number of farmers above the age of 65 has doubled.
In 2009, the average annual farming household income was NT$872,000 (US$30,000), but only less than NT$220,000 — or 22 percent — of that income came from farming, while non-farming income accounted for about 78 percent — approximately NT$676,000 — of the total annual average income for farming families.
Compared with the average farming household income in 2006, which was about NT$941,000, farming households have suffered a 10 percent drop in income.
Farming families in 2006 earned about 76 percent of the average annual income earned by non--farming families, which was 5 percent more than in 2009. Along with the drop in income, there was also a significant decline in the farming population — by as much as about 50 percent — in the past 20 years.
In 1999, there were 776,000 farmers in Taiwan, but the number dropped by 30 percent to 543,000 in 2009. In 1990, about 4.9 percent of farmers were above 65 years of age, but the number grew to 17 percent in 2009, while the percentage of farmers under the age of 35 dropped from 22.5 percent to 10.4 percent.
Taiwan Rural Front spokeswoman Tsai Pei-hui (蔡培慧), who is an associate professor at Shih Hsin University’s Graduate Institute for Social Transformation Studies, said that not being able to make a reasonable income is the main cause behind the decline in the population of young farmers.
“I can’t even remember how many times the price for a noodle soup has gone up, but the price of scallion has remained the same for a long time,” Tsai said.
She suggested that, if the government could take NT$50 billon out of the Farming Village Renewal Fund — which is about a quarter of the fund — to pay an NT$20,000 monthly stipend for two years for young people to learn -farming skills, there could be at least 20,000 new farmers.
“In Europe and in Japan, governments are making a lot of effort to save agriculture,” National Taiwan University agricultural economics professor Woo Rhung-jieh (吳榮杰) said. “In Japan, farming families even make more money than the average non-farming families.”
He said after becoming WTO members, many countries support their agricultural sectors with “transfer payments,” such as the “environmental subsidy” in Germany, since the market mechanism may not reflect the true value of the agricultural sector.
Agricultural development researcher Tu Yu (杜宇) said: “The government should make raising farmers’ income from farming a policy objective, so that farmers don’t have to do other jobs to sustain themselves.”
He went on to say that there should be some visionary policies for farmers, not only compensation.
The Council of Agriculture yesterday signed a Taiwan-Australia Agricultural Cooperation Implementation clause to open a new export market for the nation’s pineapple crop. The clause is an addition to existing cooperation measures, it said. China on Friday last week abruptly announced that it would suspend pineapple imports from Taiwan starting on Monday, on grounds that it had on multiple occasions discovered “harmful organisms” in shipments of the fruit. The public and private sectors have since joined hands to purchase the local fruit to help the nation’s pineapple farmers. Canberra has requested that all pineapples for export to Australia have their crown buds removed,
Shanghai Fosun Pharmaceutical Group might have lost its right to distribute the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for COVID-19 and the ability to fulfill a contract in Taiwan, civic groups Taiwan Citizen Front and the Economic Democracy Union said yesterday. In a radio interview on Feb. 17, Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), head of the Central Epidemic Command Center, said that last year, Taiwan was close to signing a contract to buy doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, but that the deal was halted at the last moment, with some speculating that Chinese interference was to blame. On Monday last week, the center
A Tainan taxi driver is the Taiwanese with the longest name, after he last month changed it so that it now contains 25 characters, the Anping District Household Registration Office said. The 47-year-old man, formerly known as Huang Hsin-hsiang (黃鑫翔), applied for the name change on Feb. 26, in the hope that it would bring him good luck. His new name starts with Huang Da-lan (黃大嵐) and adds another 22 characters, meaning “Huang Da-lan is the blessed darling and sweetheart of the god of joy, god of wealth, god of misfortune, god of Earth and all the gods,” it said. With
Broadcasting Corp of China chairman Jaw Shaw-kong (趙少康) yesterday said that the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) “should not follow the Democratic Progressive Party’s [DPP] direction,” after KMT Chairman Johnny Chiang (江啟臣) had said that China posed a threat to Taiwan. Chiang was quoted by Reuters as saying during an interview that China’s “one country, two systems” formula for an unification with Taiwan “has no market” in the nation. Chiang also described China as the major threat to Taiwan, Reuters reported. Jaw, who has expressed interest in running for KMT chairman this year and in the 2024 presidential election, wrote on Facebook that