Lithuania oldest beer brewer eyes Taiwan market amid Chinese sanction

01/18/2022 07:48 PM
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Marius Horbačauskas, CEO of Lithuanian beer brand Volfas Engelman. CNA photo Jan. 17, 2022
Marius Horbačauskas, CEO of Lithuanian beer brand Volfas Engelman. CNA photo Jan. 17, 2022

Vilnius, Jan. 17 (CNA) Lithuania's oldest beer brewer is now exploring the emerging Taiwan market in the wake of a naming row over the newly-opened Taiwanese representative office in Vilnius that led to a ban on products from the Baltic state in China.

During an interview conducted earlier this month, Marius Horbačauskas, CEO of Lithuanian beer brand Volfas Engelman, said his company had entered the Taiwan market in mid-2020, and while sales were poor for the first year, with only 8,000 liters sold, this gave way to a boom in 2021 after beer exports to Taiwan increased by 23 times.

Horbačauskas is thrilled that Taiwanese consumers like his company's products. "For us, it is a very big motivation."

The skyrocketing sales may have something to do with a campaign launched by Taiwan's government to show support to Lithuania products, which are facing a boycott from China.

Ties between Vilnius and Beijing soured after Lithuania allowed Taiwan to open an overseas representative office that included the word "Taiwanese" in its name in November 2021.

Beijing, which sees Taiwan and mainland China as part of one country, has sought to impose a political cost on Lithuania for its decision to allow the use of "Taiwanese" in the name of the office, seeing such moves as encouraging formal independence.

Recent punitive measures have included recalling its ambassador to Lithuania, downgrading diplomatic relations, expelling the Lithuanian ambassador to China, as well as suspending direct freight rail services and banning Lithuanian products from entering the Chinese market.

CNA photo Jan. 17, 2022
CNA photo Jan. 17, 2022

To show solidarity with Lithuania and to offset Chinese economic pressure on the Baltic State, Taiwan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) invited Taiwanese in the lead-up to Christmas to support Lithuanian businesses and choose Volfas Engelman beers for the holiday season.

"We can't stand idly by while China resorts to coercive economic measures to threaten our European partner. We support good businesses with good products!" MOFA said in a social media post.

Taiwan's representative to Lithuanian Eric Huang (黃鈞耀) also personally visited the brewhouse in late December to discuss further expansion of the company's exports to Taiwan.

According to Horbačauskas, his company's products began to enter the Chinese market seven years ago.

In 2021, the company sold 1.2 million liters of beer in China and the business was growing until it all stopped in October of last year, he said.

"All of the orders till the end of the year were canceled. Our partner [in China] said that they cannot buy because the Lithuanian products are [being] kicked out from the retail shelves, [because] products of Lithuanian origin are not welcome anymore," he added.

He stressed that he was not a political person and he was not sure what the future held for the company's prospects in the China market.

"But anyway, if we see that some people love us more, love should be mutual, so if we have similar values, why don't we focus on that side [the Taiwan market]," he said.

Horbačauskas said he was proud of his company's beers and would love to share them with Taiwanese customers.

"It's our passion which we put into the products," he said, adding that beer drinking was a universal language.

Warning: Excessive Drinking Endangers Health

(By Chen Yun-yu and Joseph Yeh)

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