“The past decade has seen tens of thousands of good farms taken over [for development projects], and farmlands continue to disappear,” alliance president Liu Ching-chang (劉慶昌) told a news conference in Taipei. “I wonder if our children and grandchildren would simply stop eating rice.”With a big harvest this year that was rapidly collected, grain prices plummeted, and government price supports appear to have benefited grain merchants rather than farmers, according to the farmers.
Liu is a farmer from Erchongpu (二重埔) in Jhudong Township (竹東), Hsinchu County, whose farmland is also facing expropriation as the government moves to expand Hsinchu Science Park.
Liu said that government officials — including President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), Premier Wu Den-yih (吳敦義) and Minister of the Interior Jiang Yi-huah (江宜樺) —had promised farmers last year to revise the Land Expropriation Act (土地徵收條例), but “expropriation has continued everywhere.”
“If the government is sincere about its promise, it should halt all ongoing expropriations until the law is amended,” Liu said.
The irony of these land grabs is that even as Taiwan plows under good land for factories, it is mulling joining the new trend of leasing land in the developing world to secure its food supply. Expropriate land here in Taiwan while leasing it overseas! Taiwan is heavily dependent on food imports and food security is a key if underappreciated issue here. The potentially lucrative market for biofuels is also driving land acquisition by Taiwan investors overseas. Taiwan also has much land that lies fallow, even as it develops slopeland, due its complicated and contradictory policies. I noted in a post earlier this year:
In Taiwan the government runs a set-aside program for farmland under which large quantities of farmland lie fallow. In some years the amount set aside exceeds the amount planted in rice (!). This program has come under much criticism, since sometimes farmland becomes unusable after being set aside and land lying uncared for invites pests that affect nearby farms. This results in abandoned land, 50,000 hectares by one 2004 estimate. When land leaves the market, it drives up the price of remaining land, pushing up rents -- and many farmers are renters, not owners. Further, for many observers it makes little sense to set aside good farmland in the lowlands while permitting farming on slopes. The set aside program is also driven by shortages of water, diverted for industrial and residential needs. Everything is exacerbated by the lack of government oversight and monitoring, a persistent problem in all areas of government policy in Taiwan.It seems that Taiwan could really do itself a favor by implementing a well thought out and comprehensive land regime. But then big developers couldn't make money getting free land from farmers and the state for private exploitation......
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