In an effort to better understand what is needed for the grouper aquaculture industry to recover from the damage caused by Typhoon Morakot, President Ma Ying-jeou attended a symposium of more than 100 aquaculture farmers in Pingtung County, the Council of Agriculture (COA) said on Sept. 21.
The president also made a stop at Fangliao Township and visited Long Diann Marine Bio Technology Co. to inspect its grouper breeding and spawning program.
Ma said at the symposium that the central government is fully aware that the aquaculture sector is in desperate need of financial assistance.
To assist aquaculture farmers who were affected by the typhoon, the COA said, it sharply increased its subsidies to them from NT$57,500 per hectare to NT$92,500 per hectare, with the maximum amount to each applicant being NT$460,000.
In addition, a Typhoon Morakot special loan scheme has been implemented to assist tens of thousand of aquaculture farmers who did not qualify to apply for the low-interest loans under Taiwan's Agricultural Natural Disaster Relief Regulations (ANDRR).
During the meeting, the COA officials also announced that relief funds have been made available to local governments to help farmers clean up and disinfect their aquaculture ponds and purchase new fish stocks.
The Typhoon Morakot special loan scheme is aimed at providing financial aid to applicants who meet the requirements of being either marine or freshwater aquaculture farmers and operate in compliance with the water resources management regulations. The loan amounts and terms of repayment are the same as under the ANDRR, but the annual interest rate is 1.5 percent, while for the ANDDR loans it is 1 percent.
The ceiling amount for subsidies to aquaculture farmers who suffered losses during the typhoon is set at several different levels, the COA said. The funds subsidize the cost of disinfecting and restocking fish ponds.
The COA also granted subsidies to the agriculture owners of six production areas located on the south of Linbien River in Pingtung, which suffered the worst damage during the typhoon and its ponds were filled with mud.
The subsidies to each of the six typhoon-affected fish areas include NT$6,500 per hectare for disinfection of ponds, NT$20, 000 for restocking, NT$30,000 per hectare for pond dredging, and a NT$20,000 cash grant that was donated by charities.
As part of Linbien Township is below sea level, it was never designated as an aquaculture area. Therefore, the town, which has a total of 341 ha of fish ponds, has been excluded from the subsidy program for the time being.
However, Linbien will be included in the regional flood protection plan in the future, the COA said.
The COA noted that aquaculture has always been the major industry in Taiwan's coastal fishing villages and the main source of income for the residents.
The Council said, it is giving much attention to this development. But the industry's development should be in harmony with the water uses.
In order to achieve this abjective, the aquaculture sector recovery plan will be implemented in compliance with the policies of national land conservation. In this way, the industry will become profitable and sustainable in the future.