&#91EDITORIALS&#93Tiptoeing on rice invites fall

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[EDITORIALS]Tiptoeing on rice invites fall

We are disappointed over the attitude the ruling and the opposition parties showed at the National Assembly concerning the government's plan to cut this year's rice purchase price by 2 percent. Granted, politicians, by nature, follow public opinion, but they must question their own sincerity on the plight of rural communities. The ruling and opposition parties also have to ask themselves if they have optional policies, having objected to the government's plan to cut the purchase price.

The ruling Millennium Democratic Party and the opposition Grand National Party concurred that they cannot agree with the plan, which they claim turns a blind eye to the hardships of the rural households. The ruling party pledged that it will adjust policies to minimize the difficulties of farmers, and the opposition party insisted that the government rice purchase price must at least be the same as last year's.

We have self-inflicted complexities because of wrong-headed agricultural policies after the launch of the World Trade Organization. Japan and Taiwan cut the government purchase price significantly or froze them; we have raised the government purchase prices by more than 26 percent. Politics ruled as the governments lacked solutions. We have put ourselves in an untenable position by widening the gap between domestic and international rice prices.

To enhance our competitiveness in the rice industry, we must improve the quality of the products and pursue economies of scale to cut production costs. Considering the yearly raises in purchase prices, a considerable cut was necessary. If the politicians want to go back to square one, restructuring agriculture will be fruitless.

Finding solutions that counter the effects of an open market and protect the production base is difficult. The Staple Distribution Committee and the Presidential Transition Committee argue for bypassing the National Assembly when the government sets rice purchase prices. The ruling and opposition parties have to avoid planting seeds of discontent and make farmers understand the inevitability of an open rice market.
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