Record-low rainfall in Yilan County this year has raised fears that harvests might be affected, the county’s weather bureau said on Tuesday.
Yilan is reliant on rainwater brought by typhoons, which generally arrive from July to September, but there have been none this year. The county only had 11mm of rain last month, the least recorded in 15 years, it said.
Yilan said crops are suffering due to the water shortage, with reports of withered tea shrubs in the Dongshan Township (冬山) region and more than two-thirds of newly planted tea trees dying.
Photo courtesy of Fu Tea
Township residents said that over the past five decades, the area has seen little to no rainfall, leading to mountain streams drying up and depriving tea trees of a valuable water source.
Chen Wan-hui (陳琬惠), the Taiwan People’s Party candidate for Yilan County commissioner, said that Yilan had never needed a reservoir, but due to climate change the county might see less rain.
The county government should prepare, and start setting up water storage facilities while stepping up water reclamation measures, Chen said.
The bureau said it would ask the Council of Agriculture to issue subsidies if the area of affected tea trees in Dongshan exceeds 20 percent.
Meanwhile, Yilan growers are concerned about an alleged export ban on Asian pear sprigs from China’s Shandong Province, the primary type used to graft the “Lieutenant General” Asian pear cultivar in Taiwan, the county’s Agriculture Department said.
As cuttings cannot acclimatize to Taiwan’s weather, new cuttings have to be grafted every year.
The bureau said that the cultivar is planted over 43 hectares in Taiwan, and has an annual profit margin of NT$100 million (US$3.34 million).
The cultivar is further subdivided into two types, the “fengshui pear” (豐水), using Japanese cuttings, and the “golden pear” (黃金), which uses cuttings from Shandong Province, the bureau said.
Growers placed orders to China last year for “golden pear” cuttings, farmer Weng Sung-ken (翁松根) said.
They were supposed to arrive in Taiwan by December last year, but arrived in late January, Weng said, adding that the delay caused growers to miss the window during which grafting is best conducted, leading to a drastic decrease in pears.
“When we reached out this year to make more orders, the intermediaries told us China would not be exporting cuttings anymore,” Weng said.
The Sansing Township (三星) Farmers’ Association said it would be holding meetings on how to help growers obtain necessary cuttings, adding that, in the worst-case scenario, they should consider grafting other kinds of pears.
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