Farmers stage fuel price protest

By Angelica Oung  /  STAFF REPORTER

Fri, Aug 17, 2007 - Page 2

Dozens of farmers mobilized by Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Chen Chao-rung (陳朝容) staged a protest at a service station in central Taipei yesterday, calling for government-subsidized fuel for tractors and other farm machinery in the face of rising oil prices.

The farmers, who came up to Taipei from Changhua, Chen's constituency, drove a tractor to a CPC Corp, Taiwan service station on the corner of Beiping E Road and Linsen N Road, lifting banners stating their demands.

Fuel subsidies for fishing fleets just went up from 8 percent to 14 percent after lobbying from fishing interests, Chen said.

"Farmers should also benefit from subsidies in these tough times," he said.

There are more subsidies in place for the fishing industry than for farmers because fishing is more energy-intensive and the fuel used is more easily tracked, the Council of Agriculture (COA) said.

"When compared to fishermen, farmer's fuel costs are a smaller percentage of their overall operating expenses," said Lin Ming-yen (林民仁), head of the agricultural machinery division at the COA's Agriculture and Food Agency. "Agricultural fuels are also harder to keep track of properly as diesel and gasoline are used in other vehicles."

Instead of subsidies, Lin said that relief might come for farmers in the shape of tax exemptions.

"We are pushing for a cargo tax exemption on fuel used in agriculture,along with the commercial tax exemption already in place for fuel used in agriculture. This will represent a price difference of NT$5 to NT$6 between the market price and the price for farmers," he said.

A greater price differential might encourage the flow of cheap subsidized diesel onto the black market, Chen said, as the fuel used in farm machinery is no different to the fuel used in ordinary vehicles.