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Typhoon-induced farm losses surge to NT$5 billion

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Losses in agricultural crops and facilities inflicted by Typhoon Morakot throughout Taiwan soared to more than NT$5.057 billion as of 2:00 p.m. yesterday.

Officials at the Council of Agriculture (COA) expected the figure to increase in coming days due to the sustained heavy rains in southern parts of the island.

But they also anticipated that rising prices for vegetables, fruits, pork and poultry will return to normal levels in about three weeks.

Damage to crops and fruits amounted to NT$2.39 billion as 43,527 hectares of farmland suffered an average of 25 percent damage from the storm and floods, translating into an area of 11,002 hectares without harvesting, according to tallies compiled by the COA.

Bananas were the hardest hit, reaching a combined area of 4,960 hectares affected, followed by papayas, guavas, and vegetables.

Losses in the livestock sector amounted to NT$623.2 million, mostly due to the demise of 70,725 pigs, 1.98 million chickens, and 522,000 ducks.

Fishery losses were much higher at NT$1.72 billion with 2.739 hectares of fish farms damaged, mostly in southern Pingtung and Tainan counties, and forestry losses were estimated at NT$16.18 million.

Damages to agricultural facilities reached NT$163.9 million, followed by fishery facilities, NT$144.5 million; and poultry-raising facilities, NT$15,69 million, the COA said.

By region, farmers in Pingtung and Kaohsiung counties in southern Taiwan and Hualien County on the east coast were eligible for cash subsidies and low interest loans under the country's disaster relief laws.

Those in seven districts — Miaoli, Taichung, Yunlin, Chiayi, Tainan, and Taitung counties as well as Chiayi City — were eligible for low interest loans.

Meanwhile, there was no trading of fresh vegetables to the capital city of Taipei yesterday as the local markets were all closed.

But the wholesale prices for vegetables already surged by an average of 30 percent and those for leafy vegetables jumped by 50 percent on Sunday due to reduced supply.

Vegetable growers said it will take one month for new and locally produced vegetables to hit the market.

Vendors said domestic vegetable prices are likely to continue rising at least until Wednesday or Thursday.

Yet egg prices edged up only slightly while rice prices have remained stable.

COA officials expressed the hope that the vegetable prices will fall back to normal levels since the council still holds over 7,700 metric tons of vegetables in storage that can be released to the market to meet consumers' demand and help stabilize prices.

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