Agencies work to tackle acute fertilizer shortage problem

The China Post news staff

TAIPEI, Taiwan — Among the long list of problems the new administration has been battling is the suddenly acute shortage of fertilizers as complained by many farmers who also anticipate soaring prices in the months ahead. Officials at the Council of Agriculture (COA) under the Executive Yuan (Cabinet) said yesterday that there is no real short supply of fertilizers because the government-owned Taiwan Fertilizer has been maintaining a steady supply. The Cabinet-level Fair Trade Commission (FTC) said it has received complaints by some farmers who said they could not purchase adequate amounts of fertilizers they want.

Initial probe shows that quite a number of farmers tend to make more procurements than they really need in anticipation that the prices will eventually go up soon after the state-run oil company CPC Corp. ended the price freeze. The FTC investigation indicates the prices for various types of fertilizers have shot up by 45 to 400 percent on the international market while the prices in Taiwan have remained unchanged for four years. Fearing possible price increases that can be induced by the rise in oil products, many farmers have tended to purchase 30 bags of fertilizer each procurement when they actually need 20 bags, FTC officials said. The wide anticipation that the new government will also lift the price freeze on fertilizers, probably in one week, has exacerbated the practice of over-purchases.

Some farmers who could not purchase the quantities they want started calling the elected officials in their districts to file complaints with government agencies.

Executives of Taiwan Fertilizer issued a statement saying that the state enterprise’s production amounted to 337,000 metric tons during the months from January to April, representing a healthy increase of 13 percent from the same period of last year. They said the company will only continue boosting supply to meet farmers’ demand regardless of soaring costs in imported materials. But they also confirmed that the COA plans to allow the first round of price increases in four years to reflect the real production costs under the free market mechanism. The new price formula will be decided by the COA, they said. With strong support from the government, Taiwan Fertilizer presently supplies around 75 percent of fertilizers on the domestic market. COA officials said that they will add to the new budget of NT$3 billion to help ease the burden of both the manufacturer and farmers. Other measures planned by the COA will include teaching farmers how to properly use fertilizers. Overuse of fertilizers will actually harm the land in the long term, the officials said.