Sun, Nov 18, 2007 - Page 4 News List

Dahu strawberry jams contain Chinese imports

BOOSTING PROFITS Miaoli County inspectors said that farmers are maximizing profits by mixing their locally grown produce with fruit imported from China

By Lee Hsin-hung  /  STAFF REPORTERS

Some of the strawberry jam manufactured in Miaoli County's famed strawberry-growing region of Dahu is comprised of up to one-third imported Chinese strawberries, Miaoli County inspectors have discovered.

However, county government personnel pointed out that according to the Act Governing Food Sanitation (食品衛生管理法), the Trademark Act (商標法) and the Consumer Protection Act (消保法), manufacturers are not required to indicate the place of origin of raw materials on product labels.

As it is legal for businesses to refrain from indicating that strawberries are imported, government officials can only attempt to persuade them, on moral grounds, not to take advantage of Dahu's reputation for great strawberries.

Miaoli County councilor Hsu Chin-hung (徐欽鴻) said at an inquiry yesterday that most Dahu strawberry processing plants use Chinese strawberries as a cheaper alternative in order to maximize profit.

As the packaging does not indicate the source of the strawberries, many consumers misidentify the product as having been manufactured from Dahu fruit.

Hsu was worried that this will damage the reputation of Dahu jams.

County officials investigated manufacturers and found that all had imported frozen strawberries from China, he said.

Hsieh Hsueh-sen (謝學森), chief of the Miaoli County Agricultural Bureau, says that Taiwan's annual strawberry production is estimated at 6,000 tonnes, of which 4,000 tonnes is grown in Dahu.

Since Taiwan joined the WTO and importing Chinese strawberries became legal, the annual volume of imports has been as high as around 700 tonnes.

Hsieh said that the wholesale price of strawberries grown in Dahu is between NT$42 and NT$45 per kilogram, whereas Chinese strawberries only cost NT$15 to NT$18 after tax. Hence strawberry processing plants use Chinese strawberries to boost profits.

As there is no clear indication of the place of origin, there are not only implications of deceiving consumers, but also a negative economic impact on local strawberry farmers who already complain of the difficulties of cut-price competition.

Huan Jung-chiang (黃榮將), chief of the Dahu Farmer's Association, said that it was impossible to tell the difference between Chinese strawberries and Dahu strawberries by sight.

But the strawberry jam sold by the Farmer's Association is made from 100 percent Dahu fruit, Huan said. One jar retails for around NT$60.

Huang said that products should indicate the origin of the raw materials so that different grades of jam will naturally be distinguishable on the market. Miaoli County Commissioner Liu Cheng-hung (劉政鴻) said that Dahu strawberry jam should have a registered trademark to protect the rights of Taiwanese strawberry farmers and consumers.

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