Uncertainty in cross-strait ties takes toll on Taiwan's farm exports

05/19/2016 04:08 PM
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Soft-shell tutle eggs. (CNA file photo)
Soft-shell tutle eggs. (CNA file photo)

Taipei, May 19 (CNA) From May 20, Taiwan will have a new government, but before the change of power takes place, something has happened that challenges the country's warm interactions with its mighty neighbor -- China -- over the past eight years.

Under the uncertainty in cross-Taiwan Strait relations due to the upcoming change of power, Taiwan's exports of farm products to China have shown signs of a slowdown, which is particularly obvious in the sectors that produce soft-shell turtle eggs and groupers, the United Daily News reported Thursday.

The price of soft-shell turtle eggs, regarded as more nutritious than chicken eggs in Chinese society, has plummeted from NT$7 (US$0.2) each to NT$0.3 in the China-destined export market since early this year, the local newspaper cited Chang Nan-chien (張南進), chairman of the Taiwan Soft-Shell Turtle Keepers' Association, as reporting.

Taiwan exports 150 million soft-shell turtle eggs to China each year, Chang was cited as saying. "Early this year, the export price was still at NT$7 each, but fell unexpectedly to NT$2.8 within two weeks in March," he complained.

Normally, wholesalers will negotiate a price before dispatching a shipment, Chang said. However, in the recent two weeks, Chinese wholesalers have failed to offer a price, blaming it on an unresponsive market, he went on.

"They had waited for the settlement of a price until Wednesday. Disappointingly, the eventual price was merely about NT$0.3 per egg," Chang said, expressing his strong suspicion that the cold response to the once-popular Taiwanese product was caused by politics.

"Amid the approaching change of power, aquaculturists have sensed a declining trend in orders from China," Kaohsiung City Aquaculture Association Chief Executive Chen Wen-ko (陳文閣) told the mass-circulation newspaper.

Kaohsiung aquaculture operators have sold the bulk of their products, mostly groupers, to China over the past few years. In May alone, there would normally be an average of 17 shipments of the fish to China in the past. This year, however, there have been no shipments this month so far," Chen said.

"The overall number of orders has dropped by at least 50 percent," he complained.

Meanwhile, a pineapple trader in Yunlin County surnamed Wu complained that the Chinese authorities seem to have raised their standards for pesticide residues on pineapples imported from Taiwan.

In March-April this year, a batch of Taiwan-produced pineapples weighing nearly 100 metric tons in total was rejected by China because the fruit had excessive pesticide residues, Wu said, noting that in the past, Chinese customs inspectors would only "take a peek" at imported Taiwan pineapples, but now check shipments case-by-case.

Some people have said that the heightened safety checks are related to the upcoming power transfer in Taiwan, while some others have attributed it to the discovery of excessive pesticide residues on pineapples shipped from Taiwan to Xiamen last year, Wu said.

"There are many different rumors going around," he added.

Taiwan sells about 3,500 metric tons of pineapples to China each year, generating revenue of NT$350 million. In southern Taiwan's Pingtung, fish farms ship about 80,000 tons of grouper to China each year for a total price of N$13 billion, and 2,000 tons of East Asian four-finger threadfin for NT$48 million, the Chinese-language daily reported.

Several farm product traders, including Taiwan Cooperative Society of Fruit and Vegetables General Manager Lin Hsiao-ping (林曉萍) and Taiwan Farmer United Logistics Corp. General Manager Yu Tsan-hung (余贊宏), have expressed hope that the new government will keep cross-strait relations unchanged, the newspaper said.

President-elect Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) of the independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) will be formally sworn in Friday. Her reluctance to accept the "1992 consensus" -- the basis for the Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) administration's promotion of cross-strait exchanges -- has raised concerns about the future development of bilateral relations.

The "1992 consensus" refers to a tacit agreement between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait on "one China," with each side free to interpret the meaning of the term, but the DPP has never recognized the existence of any such consensus.

(By Elizabeth Hsu)ENDITEM/J

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