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Vegetable prices surge as agricultural losses continue rising

2012/06/22 17:14:44

Taipei, June 22 (CNA) Wholesale prices of leafy vegetables in Taipei rose 64 percent Friday from levels before the recent period of heavy rain and Tropical Storm Talim, as countrywide agricultural losses continued to increase.

In Taipei fruit and vegetable markets, leafy vegetable prices averaged NT$24.7 (US$0.82) per kilogram on Friday, up from NT$22.9 on the previous day and NT$15.1 on June 8, before the onset of heavy rain around the island.

The price of cabbages grew 29 percent to NT$17.2 per kg from the NT$13.4 per kg recorded on June 8, and rose 9.7 percent from Thursday's level. Chinese cabbage prices surged by 27 percent to NT$16.6 per kg from NT$13.1 on June 8. The growth rate, however, fell by 30 percent from Thursday.

Agriculture and Food Agency Director Li Tsang-lang said the recent release of refrigerated vegetables will continue in an effort to maintain stable vegetable prices on the eve of the Dragon Boat Festival, one of the most important festivals in Taiwan, which will be observed on June 23 this year.

Li noted that he expects a jump in the trade volume of vegetables on Saturday because local markets will be closed for two days after the festival.

Meanwhile, because of the devastating torrential rain brought by Tropical Storm Talim over the past few days, consumers in central and southern Taiwan have had to deal with not only the problem of rising prices of vegetables, but also the lack of supply.

"There are no sweet potato leaves to harvest at all because the vegetable has been ruined by the rain," complained a farmer in Pingtung County, southern Taiwan.

Tsai Liang-hsi, head of a vegetable and fruit association in Pingtung, explained that normally farmers will grow fewer vegetables in the summer time because of the frequency of natural disasters like torrential rain, storms and flooding.

"Prices will of course jump higher (when floods come)," he said, adding that that his own crop of beans was totally flooded. "There are no beans I can pick."

Tsai also predicted squash prices will rise in the next 10 days due to dwindling supplies.

As of Friday, the agricultural losses caused by heavy rain across Taiwan in recent weeks have escalated to NT$870 million, according to statistics released by the Cabinet-level Council of Agriculture (COA).

Crop losses were estimated at NT$669 million, the figures showed.

Some 23,642 hectares of farmland, 17 percent of the total throughout the country, suffered damage, the tallies showed.

Rice crops took the hardest hit, with 12,894 hectares of first crop paddies damaged, accounting for 16 percent of the nation's total, the COA said.

Farms that grow persimmons, watermelons, papayas, grapes, bananas and wax apples also sustained severe damage due to heavy rainfall, the council said.

Significant losses were also reported in the livestock, fishery and forestry industries, it said. Livestock losses were recorded at NT$12.33 million, fishery losses at NT$83.86 million, and forestry losses at NT$3.98 million, the statistics showed.

The losses resulting from farmland damage amounted to NT$96.35 million, while infrastructure damage was more than NT$5 million, the COA said.

Agriculture officials said the government has activated aid programs that will offer subsidies and low-interest loans to farmers who suffered losses as a result of the heavy rain.

(By Yang Shu-min, Kuo Chu-chen, Yeh Tzu-kang and Elizabeth Hsu)