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Envoy sees niche for Hungary in Taiwan's health food market

2012/12/23 17:52:26

Taipei, Dec. 23 (CNA) Hungary's trade office in Taipei is working to help introduce what it calls unique "low-cholesterol pork" and other healthy products to cash in on the rising demand for healthy and organic food in Taiwan.

The growing appetite for healthy eating among Taiwanese presents a good opportunity for Hungary, which has recently toughened up its food controls, Levente Szekely, representative of the Hungarian Trade Office, told CNA in a recent interview.

He cited the meat from his country's curly-hair Mangalica swine as an example of the kind of food product that could find a large market in Taiwan.

"Its meat is much healthier than general pork meat. It's very low in cholesterol. Now with people being more and more aware of healthy living, I think the Mangalica exportation to Taiwan could bring huge profits and it could be very fashionable," he said.

Hungary's high-quality and affordable mineral water could also be a good product for Taiwan's market, the 53-year-old diplomat said.

He noted that Hungary constitutionally banned genetically modified organisms beginning on Jan. 1, 2012, making it one of the few countries with such a ban.

Szekely said Hungary and Taiwan will likely start talks on a memorandum of understanding on agriculture in January or February next year and that he expects the talks to finish "quite soon."

Hungary's interest in Taiwan is part of a new "Opening to the East" policy this year that "acknowledges the importance of Asia in the global environment," he said.

"We aim to diversify our exportation because so far the Hungarian economy is very much reliant on the EU single market, which is now in crisis," he said, adding that Taiwan is an attractive market in Asia for Hungary.

Trade between Taiwan and Hungary reached US$538 million in 2011, up 9 percent from the previous year.

Taiwan's exports to Hungary totaled US$541 million during the first nine months of 2012, up 126 percent from a year earlier, government statistics show. Taiwan's imports from Hungary were down 4 percent over the same period from a year earlier at US$87 million.

Other potential Hungarian exports to Taiwan include Hungarian wines, such as its Tokaji sweet wines, a fruit brandy called Palinka, and the herbal flavored liquor Unicum.

"It's very promising," Szekely said, adding that Hungarian wines are of high quality and affordable.

Szekely also encouraged Taiwanese companies to tap into the Hungarian market.

Expressing his fondness for Taiwan's seafood and orchids, the diplomat said Taiwan's fish and flowers, which are cultivated using advanced technologies, could be a promising export to Hungary.

When asked if the 2010 signing of the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement between Taiwan and China has provided an incentive for closer Taiwan-Hungary trade ties, Szekely agreed that it has had a positive effect.

"Taiwan's European partners are generally glad that cross-strait relations are improving, as improvement in this relationship would also make it possible for us to have broader and more intensive cooperation with Taiwan, hopefully without strong objections from Beijing," Szekely said.

In the technology field, meanwhile, Szekely said Hungarian companies are also seeking partnerships with Taiwanese companies.

He said a Hungarian trade delegation recently visited Taiwan and drew the interest of many Taiwanese companies with new inventions, such as a prototype of a lightweight foldable electric scooter and an electric car kit with parts that can be assembled into different types of vehicles.

Szekely also encouraged Taiwanese auto parts makers to invest in Hungary, stressing that several large auto companies, including Germany's Mercedes-Benz and Audi, have recently expanded their investment in Hungary.

"Hungary is the best possible bridgehead for Asian companies to enter the European market because we have uniquely good infrastructure, highly-educated people and a very welcoming environment," he said.

(By Christie Chen and Alex Jiang)