Gov’t should subsidize cabbage, send to Japan: farmers

The China Post news staff

Instead of using unused or unsold cabbages as fertilizer, the government should subsidize the purchase of the vegetable in order to donate it to survivors of the Japanese earthquake and tsunami, a representative of farmers from Yunlin suggested yesterday. “It is win-win strategy for the government, which can provide aid to Japan while helping local farmers,” said Chen Yu-chun (陳裕鈞), director-general of the Yunlin County Seeds Association, as the Council of Agriculture (COA) initiated the second 7-day subsidy program yesterday to subsidize farmers for plowing lands used to grow cabbages, in effect turning the vegetables into fertilizer and keeping them away from the oversaturated cabbage market.

According to Chen, cabbage prices have dived drastically due to excessive supply. A 3-kilogram cabbage is current generally priced at about NT$20, making it hard for cabbage farmers to make any profits, he said. The COA, however, pointed out that despite its efforts to establish a seed registration program monitoring cabbage growth in terms of arable farmland per hectare, as well as issuing warnings to farmers owning cabbage farms that exceeded 150 hectares beginning last September, most farmers have ignored the government’s initiative.

Unregistered farmers are responsible for about 85 percent of the total amount of cabbages grown this year, said the COA’s Agriculture and Food Agency Secretary-General Hsu Han-ching (許漢卿).  One of the reasons for the low registration rate is that some registered farmers had their subsidies taken away after the government found them secretly growing cabbages despite having registered for subsidies given for agricultural land laying fallow. Because farmers don’t need to register to receive some subsidies, this has resulted in a low registration rate, Hsu explained. The COA provides NT$70,000 per hectare in subsidies for registered cabbage farmers and only NT$40,000 for unregistered ones. The COA said it could legally do little for farmers who decided not to cooperate with its registration program earlier and now complain about the low level of subsidies. Chen said that the seed association provides analysis on the pros and cons of registration to farmers buying seeds from them. He described the registration program as a kind of insurance that has a very simple application procedure. Chen, however, said he did not register his own land because he was too busy to apply.