Tue, Feb 17, 2015 - Page 3 News List

Farmers’ groups pan coast guard

MANY ROADS:A Coast Guard Administration official rejected the allegations, saying there are many ways through which goods are smuggled into Taiwan, not just by sea

By Chung Li-hua  /  Staff reporter

Farmers’ associations have criticized what they said is the government’s lax approach toward inspections aimed at preventing produce smuggled from China entering the nation.

The associations highlighted statistics released by the Coast Guard Administration (CGA) showing that smuggled produce confiscated during the Lunar New Year holiday — when smuggling operations peak — dropped 80 percent last year compared to 2013 and stood at just 0.6 percent of the 2008 level.

The farmers said that there is still a huge quantity of smuggled produce on the market, and accused President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration of colluding with smugglers working with Chinese.

Statistics released by the coast guard show that the volume of illegal agricultural products smuggled from China fell from 6,632 tonnes in 2008 to 57 tonnes in 2011, before dropping further to 41 tonnes last year.

The amount of mushrooms confiscated last year was 16 tonnes, while neither garlic nor tea leaves were found.

No Chinese tea leaves have been confiscated since 2011, when authorities discovered two tonnes of contraband.

Taiwan Tea Farmers Self-help Group chief executive officer Chen Chien-nung (陳鑑農) said the coast guard had failed to intercept smuggled Chinese tea leaves over the past three years.

“You can find as many Chinese tea leaves as you want in the marketplace,” Chen said, adding that if the Ma administration requires proof, he could immediately provide evidence.

He said that most tea circulating in distribution channels is brewed from Chinese tea leaves, which leads him to believe that at least two freight containers, or 36 tonnes, of Chinese tea leaves disguised as being from other countries are being smuggled into the nation on a daily basis.

The severity of the problem has driven down the average price of local tea buds from NT$80 per kilogram to between NT$20 and NT$30 per kilogram, Chen said.

Taiwan Mushroom Research and Development Association head Chen Tsung-ming (陳宗明) said that smugglers are using Vietnam, where mushrooms are not a common crop, as a springboard for smuggling in Chinese mushrooms.

The problem has lowered the amount of confiscated Chinese mushrooms to merely a small fraction of the actual amount of Chinese mushrooms circulating in the market, Chen Tsung-ming said.

He said that even though 215 tonnes of mushrooms said to have been imported from Vietnam had been proven by the Council of Agricultures’ Agriculture and Food Agency to be from China, customs officials let the consignments enter the nation.

Taiwan Garlic Farmers Association director-general Lin Chun-fu (林俊甫) said that no smuggled Chinese garlic was found last year, due to an excess in garlic output, which caused a sharp decrease in garlic prices.

He said that garlic prices have rallied to about NT$25 per kilogram — double the price from last year. He called on the coast guard to redouble inspection efforts. Otherwise, the profits of garlic farmers would continue to suffer, he said.

CGA Deputy Minister Yu Ming-hsi (尤明錫) rejected allegations of lax inspections, saying that there are many ways through which illegal Chinese produce enters Taiwan, and shipping is only one of them.

He said people detest Chinese products and put great emphasis on food safety, which discourages merchants from smuggling Chinese produce.

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