Taiwan to add NT$2 billion to help virus-hit agricultural sector

Council of Agriculture head Chen Chi-chung (陳吉仲)

TAIPEI (CNA) — The government will allocate an additional NT$2 billion (US$66.46 million) to help the agricultural sector cope with disruptions from the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) epidemic, bringing the total to NT$8.8 billion.

Council of Agriculture head Chen Chi-chung (陳吉仲) said Monday that NT$4.07 billion of the original NT$6.8 billion in funding has already been allocated in soft loans to agricultural businesses, and it was apparent that more would be needed.

Some of that funding will be targeted at the horticulture sector.

Workers who pick flowers for flower vendors and are not covered by the labor insurance program, for example, will each be entitled to a monthly stipend of NT$9,520, or 40 percent of the minimum monthly wage of NT$23,800, for three months, Chen said.

The government will also provide NT$100 million to support the overseas marketing of Taiwan-grown flowers and subsidize up to 20 percent of producers’ costs, including for fertilizer, according to Chen.

It will also subsidize air and ocean freight costs to ship products abroad.

Part of the assistance program will be directed at non-monetary relief, including to the fishing industry, which has faced labor shortages after many Chinese and Indonesian crew members were unable to come to Taiwan due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Chen said.

The government will help expedite permits for workers hired from abroad by fishing companies to bring in workers to man their boats.

A total of 88 fishing boat owners have filed applications for permission to recruit 632 migrant workers to replenish their workforces, Chen said.