Taiwan should explore the feasibility of exporting its tropical or sub-tropical fruits to the EU, a visiting British agricultural expert said yesterday.
"Traditional destinations of Taiwan's exported fruits include Japan, Hong Kong and the Philippines, which accounted for 95 percent of the exports," said Bill Howard, managing partner of GFA-RACE Partners Ltd, at a seminar in Taipei.
The Britain-based GFA-RACE Partners provides consultancy services to the food, agricultural and rural industries.
Taiwan's fruit exports in terms of value have been declining from over US$160 million in 1993 to around NT$70 million last year, a decrease of more than 56 percent in the past 10 years, according to statistics provided by the Council of Agriculture.
"Taiwan needs new markets to boost its fruit exports," Howard said at a seminar on building Taiwan's farm and food industries for the 21st century.
Western and Eastern Europe seize 27 percent of the global fresh fruit market. In particular, people in the EU spend more on fruit, spending nearly 48.3 billion euros (US$ 57.5 billion) last year, which is a lot more than that of the US at 30.9 billion euros and Japan at around 16.3 billion euros.
The demand for exotic fruit has been growing in the EU market from 1992 to 2001 and to some extent replaced the needs for traditional fruits.
"We see a trend that EU consumers are demanding a high variety of fruit, because people now travel a lot and thus have a higher capacity for exotic fruits," Howard said.
"The retailers are also willing to sell exotic fruit to diversify their products and lure customers."
However, there are a few obstacles for Taiwan to develop its fruit exports to the EU market, a council official said.
"Given that Europe is geographically far away from Taiwan, transportation costs will be a burden to Taiwan's exporters," said Wang Ming-lai (王明來), the director general of the council's international cooperation department.
Wang said long-distance transportation would damage the quality of some fruit. In addition, the EU's strict inspection regulations would make it more difficult for Taiwan's fruit exports to access the market, he said.