By Chris Wang
The administration of President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) has failed to care for farmers — fruit growers in particular — and it has proven incapable of resolving agricultural supply imbalances and falling produce prices, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) said at a campaign event in Greater Kaohsiung yesterday.
Tsai focused on agricultural development during her campaign visit to the south, where she attended nine grand opening ceremonies at campaign headquarters of DPP legislative candidates.
“The DPP is ready with good policies to turn Taiwan’s agricultural development around,” she told supporters in Gangshan (岡山), Greater Kaohsiung.
Tsai said the agricultural industry, particularly in the fruit-growing sector, has experienced serious supply and demand imbalances, which has led to falling prices over the past three years, adding that the trade deficit for Taiwanese fruit increased by NT$240 million (US$7.9 million) between 2007 and last year.
“The current situation shows that the government is not doing its job — and probably doesn’t know how to get the job done,” Tsai said, adding that Ma “reads the data of his public opinion polls more carefully than economic data.”
Tsai said the DPP has raised these issues with the government, but was given the cold shoulder by the Ma administration, which subsequently used the topic to attack her campaign, saying that she was using incorrect statistics to mislead the public.
Statistics provided by the DPP showed the price of second-grade bananas in Nantou County fell to NT$2 per 600g, but they cost farmers NT$16 per 600g to produce.
This was the second time since June that prices had fallen to such drastic lows, the DPP said.
Similar plunges have also been seen in the price of guavas in Changhua, longans in Greater Taichung and Nantou, persimmons in Taitung, as well as tangerines in Yunlin, the party said.
Ma has denied the price drops by citing wholesale and retail prices, rather than local prices, which is the price that actually relates to farmers’ income, Tsai said.
If elected in January, Tsai said, she would have the government agencies in charge of agricultural affairs monitor production and produce prices at all times, and help market the nation’s agricultural produce overseas.
She also proposed establishing a NT$100 billion agricultural development fund to modernize the sector and encourage younger people to work in the industry.
The Ma administration’s inability to resolve local economic woes has been a great concern, she added.
Tsai said the economic situation in October is typically better than previous months, but the industrial output slowed and the unemployment rates instead rose last month.
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