Tue, Jun 12, 2018 - Page 3 News List

COA says rice price levels and subsidies to be maintained

By Lin Chia-nan  /  Staff reporter

The Council of Agriculture (COA) yesterday promised to keep rice prices above certain levels, while calling on farmers not to believe “fake news” and rush to harvest unripe rice.

Over the past few weeks, the council has been besieged by false news about crop sales, it said.

Since last week, many rice farmers in central and southern Taiwan have begun to harvest rice before it is ripe, fearing a possible typhoon or flooding, as well as the council’s possible release of rice reserves, which would affect the sale of their harvest.

Claims that the council would release rice are fabricated, COA Deputy Minister Chen Chi-chung (陳吉仲) told a news conference in Taipei yesterday, adding that retailers must still purchase rice from farmers.

He called on farmers not to harvest unripe rice, as it contains a higher moisture content and would fetch a discounted price.

Rice with a moisture content of less than 30 percent can be sold to the government for at least NT$950 per 60kg, he said.

If harvests are affected by natural disasters, the council would purchase the rice at NT$141,600 per hectare and offer cash relief of NT$18,000 per hectare of rice, he said.

Farmers choosing to sell rice at market can also earn a subsidy of NT$13,500 per hectare of harvested rice under the council’s policy to encourage agricultural production, he said.

Chen confirmed local media reports that President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) had expressed dissatisfaction with the council’s performance in handling crop sales when he reported the council’s policies at a Democratic Progressive Party meeting on Wednesday last week.

Fluctuations in crop prices can be stabilized through short-term measures, but the council is considering more fundamental reforms, such as building cooling systems for crops and diversifying the variety of agricultural products, he said.

An imbalance in the supply and demand of crops might still occur, but the council would try to minimize its scope, Chen added.

While some farmers said they earned only NT$880 to NT$910 per 60kg of rice, it is because their rice contains up to 35 percent moisture, COA Agriculture and Food Agency Deputy Director-General Juang Lao-dar (莊老達) said.

Seasoned farmers can differentiate between the appearance of ripe and unripe rice, yet some still hurried to harvest it due to uncertainty about the weather and market prices, Juang said.

It usually takes 24 hours to dry rice with a moisture content of 30 percent or less, but it might take up to 40 hours to dry rice containing more moisture, making retailers less willing to buy it, he added.

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