TRADE PACT SIEGE: Farmers donate sunflowers and pineapples

MATERIAL SUPPORT::A well-known flower farmer said he gladly donated his entire sunflower crop for Sunday’s rally because it does not happen every day

By Jason Pan  /  Staff writer, with agencies

Tue, Apr 01, 2014 - Page 3

Farmers in rural areas across the nation have joined in efforts to sustain the “Sunflower student movement” and lent material support to Sunday’s “black-clad army” rally through generous donations of vegetables, fruit and flower produce.

The contributions by farmers came into sharp public focus over the weekend, as volunteer workers in Greater Kaohsiung toiled to harvest this season’s crop of sunflowers in time to give to participants at Sunday’s rally in Taipei.

Meanwhile, a young farmer in Greater Tainan said his family was harassed by police after he donated a truckload of pineapples to the student movement.

Sunflowers have been in high demand since they were chosen as the symbol of the student protest movement, which began with the occupation of the legislature on March 18, and shortages and spiking prices have been reported in some places.

Flower farmer Huang Meng-sheng (黃盟生) was applauded by students for his donation of flowers on Sunday. He is well-known for his successful cultivation of the “Rainbow Sunflower” species on his orchid farm in Chihshang District (旗山), Greater Kaohsiung.

Huang could not travel to Taipei on Sunday, so he opened up his farm earlier in the week by calling for volunteers to harvest his crop of 200,000 sunflowers.

“The volunteers came and helped to harvest the entire crop of 200,000 sunflowers. Then they transported the sunflowers by truck to Taipei. This crop is done and over with for now. It is fine with me, because I can plant seeds and grow more flowers, whereas it is not every day that we have a student movement like this one,” Huang said.

He estimated the value of his flower donation at about NT$1 million (US$32,800), based on the price in Kaohsiung for 10 sunflowers of between NT$50 and NT$60.

Meanwhile, Yang Yu-fan (楊宇帆), a fruit farmer in Greater Tainan, said: “It seems like we are back in the ‘White Terror’ era,” as his family was harassed by police after he posted photographs on Facebook of himself transporting a truckload of pineapples to Taipei in support of the rally on Sunday.

Yang said he drove all the way on Saturday, with the help of family members, to deliver the pineapples to Taipei in person.

On the way, Yang received a telephone call from his grandmother, who was at home, who told him a policeman arrived there and asked questions about Yang’s donation of pineapples.

“Why did the police come to investigate my donation of pineapples? This is the police’s way, abusing their authority to come down hard on members of the public. They want to pressure those people who support the students,” Yang wrote on Facebook to denounce the police action.

“The police did not have a search warrant and they did not produce any documents. They cannot just come into my home. I am very angry about this. It was a scare tactic by the police,” Yang said.

“We regular folks pay so much tax to the government, yet they order police to people’s homes to investigate a farmer for donating pineapples to students. This is a big waste of government resources and our taxpayers’ money,” Yang wrote.