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September 20, 2017

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Farmers call on gov't to step up protection of agriculture sector

TAIPEI--Nearly 1,000 farmers gathered in Taipei Sunday to call for more protection for the local agriculture sector, following recent news that the government might allow more agricultural products from China to enter Taiwan.

The farmers and groups promoting farmers' rights gathered on Ketagalan Boulevard in front of the Presidential Office to demand that the government make more effort to protect their livelihoods.

The protest came after Agriculture Minister Chen Bao-ji said in late January that "we can't say whether or not" more Chinese agricultural products will be allowed to enter Taiwan's market in the future.

Chen was responding to questions about the possibility that the government will allow entry later this year of 830 products from China that are currently prohibited from being imported into Taiwan.

Chen said China has asked Taiwan during trade talks to open up further to Chinese products, while Taiwan has also asked China to open wider to various Taiwanese products and categories of goods.

"The issue is still being negotiated, and the items and categories cannot be divulged," Chen added.

Meanwhile at Sunday's protest, the farmers also joined hands with members of the Indonesia-based La Via Campesina, which promotes an international peasant movement, for a forum on food sovereignty.

The participants, from countries in East and Southeast Asia, shared their experiences on topics such as land seizure, genetically modified food and ecological farming, the groups said, adding that the forum also focused on reviewing farming policies that are in need of improvement.

The forum was scheduled to be followed by a party, and one of the groups said its members were prepared to throw straw at the Presidential Office to urge the government to protect Taiwan's agricultural sector, upon which Taiwan has relied heavily in times past.

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