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Government cuts import tariffs 50 percent for some fruits

Vice Premier Jiang Yi-huah (江宜樺) announced a 50-percent reduction of tariff rates levied on three kinds of imported fruit: apples, kiwis and peaches.

In an effort to stabilize commodity prices, Jiang has commissioned the Council of Agriculture (COA) to import a selection of off-season fruits that are high in demand.

Jiang further explained that the tariff rates for the three fruits would be cut in half. The policy, which should come into effect this Saturday, is to be maintained for two months. "We will see if adjustments can be made after two months," Jiang said.

The reduction in tariff income may equate to NT$115 million.

With several typhoons hitting Taiwan this year, farmers are having a difficult time supplying enough fruit to satisfy market demands. Crop prices have skyrocketed with an annual consumer price index (CPI) increase of 3.42 percent in August. When reporters asked Jiang if the CPI annual increases might drop below 2 percent for September, he answered, "As long as there are no more natural disasters, it shouldn't be a problem."

According to the COA, fruit and vegetables cost NT$40 per kilogram on average for wholesale suppliers in August. In September the cost rose to NT$47.2; this was a 60-percent increase compared to last year, as well as the highest price over the last five years. The total volume of fruit and vegetables traded was 15,675 metric tons during September, a 16-percent decrease from last year — the lowest figure in five years.

According to Jiang, given that domestically grown fruits such as bananas, ponkans and oranges are not due for harvest until late October, the government needed to devise a plan to increase the supply of fruit in the meantime. "We cannot liberalize the import of all fruits, for fear of damaging market prices," Jiang said. He hopes this would be a mechanism that stabilizes food prices before seasonal fruits enter markets in October.

According to the Customs Act, in an effort to stabilize prices, the government may adjust custom taxes levied on imported goods. The price adjustment is restricted to changes of 50 percent, and the imposed time limit should be no more than one year.

Jiang asked the Ministry of the Interior to include fruit, which current regulation does not cover, under the Customs Act.

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