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COA chief & director of swine group trade barbs over pork price

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Council of Agriculture Minister Chen Bao-ji (陳保基) and R.O.C. Swine Association Director Yang Kuan-chang (楊冠章) had a heated debate yesterday over the recent increase in pork prices.

Yesterday, the COA invited the association to attend a meeting where it asked pig farmers to supply pork to the market instead of hoarding pork in order to gain higher profits.

The COA recently passed to the Fair Trade Commission (FTC) for further investigation information regarding irregular amounts of pork stocked at four cold storage plants as well as three auctions that conducted abnormal trades of pork. In response, Yang and Pan Lien-chou (潘連周), of the R.O.C. Swine Association, were scheduled to go to the Legislative Yuan to discuss the issue with the FTC.

Both Yang and Pan kneeled down during the Economics Committee meeting, asking the government to stop intervening in the pork market.

During Yang's interview, Chen walked by and they started to argue over issues regarding industry survival and policy needed to stabilize prices.

Yang said that pig farmers' actions did not affect the prices of pork.

“Pig farmers do not have the ability to control pork prices on the market,” said Yang. “Chen's speech saying that pig farmers who are hoarding caused inflation was unacceptable.”

“The COA did not clarify that the number of pigs being sold on the market since this Chinese New Year holidays, about 895,982, was the highest since 2006,” said Yang.

According to Yang, the number of pigs being sold on the market also increased due to higher demand during Lantern Festival. Following the deaths of over 500,000 swine (official statistics indicate over 210,000) as a result of Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea (PED), Yang said, most pig farmers wanted to hold on to their pigs in order to put more weight on the pigs.

Yang also said that ever since Chen took over as COA head, the number of pig farmers has decreased by about 4,000 to 5,000, leaving only 8,500 pig farmers in Taiwan.

“Pig farmers have been losing money for the past two years, and the COA did not care about it,” said Yang. “Now that pork prices have increased for one month, the COA immediately intervenes in the market, which is not acceptable.”

Hoarding Pork Causes Pork Price Increased: Chen

Chen insisted that pig farmers' actions of hoarding their pigs caused pork prices to increase dramatically.

According to Chen, the fact that auction prices for pork in Southern Taiwan were about the same compared to the auction prices for pork in Northern Taiwan was not normal.

“What pig farmers do now will only hurt themselves, especially after the amount of pork being imported increases in the future,” said Chen.

COA to Import 3,000 Tons of Pork

COA Deputy Minister Chen Wen-te (陳文德) said yesterday that the COA will talk to the Ministry of Finance about using discounted customs duties to import 3,000 tons of pork in order to balance the price.

Chen Wen-te said that the COA will also enforce inspections on whether or not pork sellers engage in hoarding.

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