Taiwan goes all-in on pineapple craze after China halts imports

02/27/2021 07:48 PM
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Minister of Transportation and Communications Lin Chia-lung (second right) takes part in harvesting pineapples in a photo he shared on Facebook Friday. Photo courtesy of the Ministry of Transportation and Communications
Minister of Transportation and Communications Lin Chia-lung (second right) takes part in harvesting pineapples in a photo he shared on Facebook Friday. Photo courtesy of the Ministry of Transportation and Communications

Taipei, Feb. 27 (CNA) A wide range of Taiwanese public figures have taken to social media to urge support for the country's pineapple growers, after China announced on Friday that it was suspending imports of the fruit from Taiwan.

The suspension, effective from March 1, was announced by China's General Administration of Customs, in response to what it said were various types of mealy bugs found in several batches of fresh pineapples shipped from Taiwan in 2020.

The move has been interpreted by some in Taiwan as being directed at the governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), which is frequently critical of China, and whose traditional base of support is in the south of the country where pineapples are grown.

After a string of southern mayors spoke out against the move on Friday, a broader swathe of public figures joined calls to rally support for farmers affected by the ban.

The internet celebrity Holger Chen (陳之漢) announced plans to buy NT$500,000 (US$17,945) worth of pineapples, which he said will be distributed to members of the chain of gyms he founded.

"Don't bully Taiwanese people," Chen wrote in a Facebook post accompanied by a picture of him holding a pineapple in each hand, which as of Saturday afternoon had racked up over 170,000 likes.

New Taipei Mayor Hou Yu-ih (候友宜), a member of the opposition Kuomintang (KMT), said he was looking for ways to work with his southern counterparts on the issue, and expressed confidence that the market would be able to rebound.

"Taiwan pineapples are sweet, juicy, full of vitamins and loved around the world, so there is no reason they should only be sold in one market," he said. "In facing this problem with China, the government should stay calm and focus on bilateral communication."

Among DPP figures, Taoyuan Mayor Cheng Wen-tsan (鄭文燦) said he was sure the government would work hard to open up other export markets for the fruit, but in the meantime urged people to show their support by "using New Taiwan Dollars to empty the shelves of pineapples."

Hsinchu Mayor Lin Chih-chien (林智堅) reminded Facebook followers that pineapples are a versatile fruit that can not only be eaten fresh, but also used in processed products like cake, jam and bromelain, an enzyme extract derived from the stem of the plant.

Lin Yu-chang (林右昌), mayor of Keelung, said that he "strongly protested" the policy, which he characterized as part of a "longtime (Chinese) approach to Taiwanese agriculture" that involved building a market up only to purposely let it collapse.

According to the Council of Agriculture (COA), pineapple prices were holding steady at NT$24.4 per kilogram on Saturday, well above the support price of NT$11 at which the government would begin to purchase pineapples directly from farmers.

Between 2018 and 2020, exports accounted for only 10 percent of total pineapples produced in Taiwan, of which 95.2 percent went to China and had a value of NT$155.23 million, COA statistics show.

(By Shen Pei-yao, Yang Shu-min and Matthew Mazzetta)

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