The tragic typhoon that struck Taiwan earlier this month may possibly lead to the passage of an earlier-proposed law to prohibit commercial farming at elevations above 1500 meters. Such a law would affect the high mountain tea plantations at the highest altitudes. Dayuling oolong around Lishan and the various types of high mountain oolong produced around Taiwan's highest peak of Yushan, as well as some Shanlinxi and other types of tea would be impacted.
One statement in the article, quoted from an interview with the executive manager of the Meishan farmers' association, put the loss of Alishan tea's winter crop at 30%. Quantity aside, quality will probably also be affected, as I hypothesized in a previous post.
This news snippet came to me via tea friend Michael Coffey of teageek.net, and the full article can be found here:
I don't think it's a high probability that this law, first proposed in 2005 and stuck behind a backlog of other legislation, will pass. Even if it does, it affects a small amount of tea produced in Taiwan, but that effect would be to some of Taiwan's premier-grade high mountain oolong.
When I visited tea farms in Nantou County earlier this year, specifically on Fenghuang mountain (Taiwan's Phoenix mountain), there was evidence of soil erosion in many areas. I was taken to locations higher up in the mountain where rock and mudslides had caused extensive damage. The culprit? Land that had been cleared of trees and been improperly terraced for tea production. We had to re-route along the roads we were traveling on several times due to them being washed away. Several other roads that we traveled on that appeared to be relatively new had major fissures across them and some appeared to be sliding down the side of the mountain as well. Shoddy work and natural weather conditions have created potentially hazardous conditions. There should be more oversight to ensure that tea plantations and public infrastructure are correctly built, but in the face of a monster like Typhoon Morakot, the destruction would still have been severe.
Tea farmers that I've talked with alluded to questionable government dealings that have led to expensive and low-quality public works projects. I was shown roads in various areas all over northern Taiwan that were in a perpetual state of repair, as well as random structures, like pagodas and tea stalls, with exorbitant price tags. In a country that is no stranger to corruption, one must wonder how greed and shoddy work may have led to unnecessary loss of life from natural disasters.