Agencies gauge impact of new China import bans

08/04/2022 12:02 AM
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CNA photo Aug. 3, 2022
CNA photo Aug. 3, 2022

Taipei, Aug. 3 (CNA) The Council of Agriculture (COA) Wednesday said the value of citrus fruit and two fish varieties subject to import bans imposed by China is estimated at NT$620 million (US$20.66 million).

China announced a temporarily suspension of imports of the products just hours after U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's flight landed in Taiwan, citing excessive pesticide residue, the discovery of scale insects in citrus fruit and packaging of frozen largehead hairtail, and Japanese horse mackerel testing positive for the COVID-19 virus.

The new ban came one day after China temporarily halted the imports of food products from more than 100 Taiwanese food manufacturers, in a move widely viewed as preemptive retaliation for Pelosi's visit to Taiwan.

The COA estimates that about 8,000 tonnes of citrus fruit, including 5,000 tonnes of pomelos, as well as 5,500 tonnes of largehead hairtail and 1,000 tonnes of Japanese horse mackerel will be affected by the unilateral trade restrictions over the course of a year.

Other citrus fruit targeted by the ban include ponkan, murcott, lemon and grapefruit, which account for 3,000 tonnes a year, it said.

The COA will introduce measures to help farmers market the affected produce and seafood, it added.

It plans to team up with local governments, retail franchises, and supermarkets operated by farmers' associations to sell 3,000 tonnes of the fruit; process another 3,500 tonnes; and expand overseas distribution channels for the remaining 1,500 tonnes.

Meanwhile, data compiled by the COA showed China last year bought 79 percent of largehead hairtail produced in Taiwan, and in the first half of this year purchased 39 percent.

The data showed that China last year bought 13 percent of Japanese horse mackerel produced in Taiwan, compared to 27 percent in the first half of this year.

According to estimates provided by the COA, about 4,500 tonnes to 5,500 tonnes of the two fish varieties, which have a combined value of NT$340 million, will be affected by the trade restrictions over a one year period.

The council will work with Fishermen's associations and groups, supermarket chains, online distribution channels, and the restaurants in the hopes of selling 1,600 tonnes, as well as process or freeze 3,000 tonnes, it said.

Meanwhile, to boost domestic sales of the fruit and fish, people who purchase at least NT$600 worth of designated products online at Farmersbuy (https://farmersbuy.cas.org.tw), Fishgo (https://fishgo.atri.org.tw), or GOFISH (https://gofish.atri.org.tw) will be eligible to participate in a raffle draw, in which they will get a chance to win a voucher with a face value of NT$200, which they can use while shopping at designated recreational farms, health food stores and restaurants, the COA said.

COA Minister Chen Chi-chung (陳吉仲) said the council has filed three complaints with the WTO's Committee on Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures over the increasing number of import bans China has imposed on Taiwan since November last year.

If the issue is not resolved, the COA will ask the committee to initiate its dispute settlement procedure to protect Taiwan's interests, he said.

Separately on Wednesday, Yunlin County Commissioner Chang Li-shan (張麗善) said that about 45 companies in the county, of which 12 deal with agricultural produce, are affected by the import bans.

She has ordered that a hotline be set up to listen to farmers' needs as her administration makes efforts to develop policy solutions, Chang said.

Meanwhile, Pingtung County Commissioner Pan Meng-an (潘孟安) Wednesday said that while the county produces about 70 percent of Taiwan's lemons, lemon exports to China have dropped from about 1,300 tonnes a year to 104 tonnes from January to April this year, adding that domestic demand has been particularly high this year.

Also on Wednesday, Taichung City Agriculture Bureau said that the only type of produce the city has sold to China in the past three years was murcotts.

The city has exported about 202 tonnes of murcotts to China this year, which accounts for less than 1 percent of Taichung's annual production of about 46,800 tonnes of citrus fruit, it said.

Responding to reporter's requests for comments on the import bans, Taiwan External Trade Development Council (TAITRA) chairman James Huang (黃志芳), who was the first director of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party's (DPP) New Southbound Policy Office, said TAITRA will continue to work to diversify destinations for exports of the affected produce based on the eating habits of targeted export markets.

On China's suspension of natural sand exports to Taiwan, also announced Wednesday, the Ministry of Economic Affairs said that the nation imported about 70,000 tonnes of natural sand from China last year and has so far imported about 170,000 tonnes this year.

The export ban is likely to have a limited effect, as both figures account for less than 1 percent of the nation's demand for natural sand, the ministry said.

(By Yang Shu-min, Lee Hui-ting, Chiang Yi-ching, Chao Li-yan, Cheng Hung-ta and Sean Lin)

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