Taipei, May 16 (CNA) Low production of lychees this year might cause the price of the fruit to skyrocket, as orders continue to flow in from Singapore and Malaysia, said Taichung Agriculture Bureau Director Cai Jing-qiang on Wednesday.
He said that while it is quite common to see a cycle of a heavy lychee crop one year followed by lower production the next year, the current situation of non-bearing lychee trees requires attention by the Taiwan Agriculture Research Institute to determine the cause.
Taichung has some 2,000 hectares of lychee farms, and its Taiping District is the largest producer, with over 600 hectares, according to Taichung City Councilor Hwang Siou-jhu.
However, after visiting three lychee farms in the district, Hwang said only a few trees had a production rate of more than 50 percent. Trees that usually produce 120 kg of lychees per year on average are likely to yield less than 10 kg of fruit this year, she said.
Some lychee trees have not blossomed or born any fruit this year, and some have grown new leaves, which causes them to shed their fruit, Hwang said, explaining the situation of low production on the farms.
Higher prices might not offset the heavy losses farmers will incur or cover the cost of pesticides, she said.
Farmers in Taiping District speculated Wednesday that the abnormally small crop this year may have been caused by heavy spring rains. One farmer said it was the lowest yield he has seen in 60 years.
The decline in production was not caused by pests, the Hwang's office said, citing farmers.
It said climate change may have contributed to the problem and it urged the government to offer compensation to farmers under the natural disaster relief program.
Official statistics on lychee production this year are not yet available because the crop has not yet been fully harvested, according to Hwang's office.
(By Chen Ching-ping and C.J. Lin)