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Rice harvesters meet farmers' demands: Premier Chen

The China Post--The more than 2,000 rice harvesters available nationwide are sufficient to meet the demands of local farmers, said Premier Sean Chen (陳沖) yesterday amid reports that an elderly farmer had recently been rescued after attempting suicide because he wasn't able to one of the machines during flooding.

“According to statistics, there is currently a total of 2,042 rice harvesters that can be used around the country,” Chen said yesterday.

Under proper arrangements, the premier said he believes the 2,000-plus machines can meet local farmers' needs without the government purchasing new equipment.

Chen made the comments in response to a Chinese-language news report that a 69-year-old rice farmer in the southern county of Yunlin attempted to kill himself last Saturday.

The farmer, surnamed Lin, was later rescued and remains in the hospital.

His daughter said Lin tried to kill himself because he was unable to borrow a rice harvester to use on his rice paddies, which had to be done as soon as possible to avoid severe financial losses from his crop, which had already been devastated by heavy rain and Tropical Storm Talim over the past few weeks.

Such problems have been common among Taiwanese farmers recently.

Asked to comment, the premier said yesterday that he understood harvesting crops is currently more urgent for farmers in the south as the temperature has recently began rising significantly.

Chen said, however, that he was under the impression that most rice paddies in Southern Taiwan have been harvested already.

Commenting specifically on the situation in Yunlin County, Chen said there are more than 200 rice harvesters available in the southern county, adding that local agricultural authorities should make better arrangements to ensure crop harvesting can proceed quickly and smoothly.

Soldiers Should Help Harvesting: DPP

Meanwhile, an opposition lawmaker yesterday proposed having Taiwanese soldiers serve as volunteers to help rice farmers harvest their paddies given the fact that rice harvesters are not always available, especially in times of flooding.

The Democratic Progressive Party's (DPP) Hsueh Ling (薛凌) yesterday urged the Ministry of National Defense (MND) to dispatch soldiers to assist the farmers free of charge.

In response, military spokesman Luo Shou-he told reporters that the plan could affect local armed forces' defense preparedness, especially as the size of the forces is currently undergoing significant downsizing.

Luo also said that most military personnel and Taiwanese youth in general don't know a thing about harvesting rice paddies, which means they would need to undergo further training before being able to do the job for farmers.

The spokesman added that such assistance should fall under the jurisdiction of local county and city governments instead of the MND.

Under the ministry's streamlining program, military personnel are expected to be cut from 275,000 to 215,000 by the year 2014.

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