Several legislators yesterday urged the Council of Agriculture (COA) and the Department of Health to step up inspections on the local market to crack down on mushrooms smuggled from China.
Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) legislators Hsu Chung-hsiung (徐中雄) and Lin Tsang-min (林滄敏) and Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Chang Hua-kuan (張花冠) issued the request at a meeting of the legislature’s Economics Committee called to discuss measures to curb smuggling and help local mushroom growers.
Mushroom imports from China are banned in Taiwan, but smuggling has become rampant in recent years because of the steep difference in prices between mushrooms grown in China and those grown in Taiwan.
According to Coast Guard Administration figures, 20,103kg of smuggled Chinese mushrooms were seized in 2005, a figure that rose to 45,358 kg in 2006. A total of 16,556kg have been seized to date this year, but the figures are believed to represent only a fraction of the total amount that end up on the local market.
Hsu claimed at the meeting that smuggled Chinese mushrooms have seriously harmed the interests of domestic growers.
With Chinese mushrooms costing NT$200 to NT$300 per kilogram, compared with NT$600 to NT$800 for locally grown mushrooms, Hsu said, Taiwanese growers suffered a 60 percent drop in sales during the recent Dragon Boat Festival holiday because of the availability of smuggled Chinese mushrooms.
Hsu said Chinese mushrooms contain excessive levels of pesticide residue, which was why he and his colleagues urged the government to crack down on smuggling to ensure consumer safety as well as the livelihood of local growers.
In response, COA Deputy Minister Huang You-tsai (黃有才) said the main responsibility for preventing smuggling lay with customs officials and the coast guard.
He said the Ministry of Justice’s Investigation Bureau, the COA, customs authorities, the coast guard and local police have formed a task force to crack down on smuggling of agricultural products.
The task force conducts regular spot inspections at local markets to check for smuggled goods, he said.
Meanwhile, Wu Ai-kuo (吳愛國), deputy head of the Finance Ministry’s Directorate General of Customs, said the US has lent Taiwan three advanced X-ray machines under its Container Security Initiative program which are now being used at points of entry in Kaohsiung.
He said the Directorate General of Customs has allocated funds for the purchase of five more X-ray machines to help prevent smuggling.
Hsu urged the task force to increase the frequency of its spot checks to more than four times a month at retail outlets, food processing plants and storage sites.
Only in this way can consumer safety and the interests of local mushroom farmers be protected, he said.
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