Orchards in Pingtung destroyed by two typhoons

Super Typhoon Meranti and Typhoon Megi have wreaked havoc on agriculture in southern Taiwan's Pingtung County, wiping out large areas of bellfruit and jujube orchards.

"We have never suffered such losses before," Tsai Shun-te (???), a farmer who has grown bellfruit for 30 years, said Wednesday.

He said the two typhoons have destroyed over 70 percent of his trees, and added that other fruit farmers have lost over 80 percent-90 percent of their crops.

Pan Chih-min (???), who grows high-end jujubes, also lost 50 percent of his orchards during Meranti, and another 20 percent after Megi, leaving him with less than 30 percent of his jujube trees.

"The question right now is not how expensive the jujubes will be because of scarcity, the question is whether there will be any jujubes left for harvest," said Pan, who had planned to harvest his fruit next month.

He said the two typhoons have wreaked more havoc on Pingtung orchards than Typhoon Morakot of 2009, the deadliest typhoon to impact Taiwan in half a century.

The harvest time for bellfruit and jujubes in Pingtung falls in mid-October.

Among the crops in Pingtung damaged by Typhoon Megi, bellfruit took the biggest hit, with around 100 hectares of orchards damaged and losses amounting to over NT$22 million (US$ 701,653), according to statistics released by the Pingtung County government.

The second-most damaged was jujubes, with 15.5 hectares of orchards damaged and losses amounting to over NT$16 million, statistics show.

Banana growers also suffered losses of NT$14 million and damage to 25 hectares of orchards, according to the statistics. Other crops that suffered losses were mangoes, rice, lemons and papayas.

Pingtung Magistrate Pan Meng-an (???) said Wednesday that he has asked the central government to increase subsidies for Pingtung farmers and to give them low-interest loans.

Taiwan has been hit by three major typhoons in a two-week span. First was Super Typhoon Meranti that slashed across southern Taiwan Sept. 14 and 15, followed by Typhoon Malakas, which affected northern Taiwan Sept. 17, and Typhoon Megi, which battered much of the island Tuesday before moving to China.

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel