Taiwan-grown mandarin oranges have become extremely popular among ethnic Chinese communities in Southeast Asian countries as Lunar New Year gifts, according to a local exporter of the fruit.
Known as the ponkan mandarin orange, the fruit is one of the most popular gift choices during the holiday period because it is -considered to be an auspicious symbol in Chinese society and Taiwan-grown ponkans are prized for their good quality and sweetness.
Those features have helped the locally grown fruit carve out a stable market share abroad and resist competition from ponkans grown in China, which are considerably cheaper, said Chou Jung-mao (周榮茂), who runs the biggest ponkan exporting company in the nation.
Over the past 13 months, Chou’s company has shipped 250 tonnes of Taiwan-grown ponkans overseas, of which 155 tonnes have gone to Singapore, 80 tonnes have gone to Indonesia and 15 tonnes have been shipped to Malaysia.
“Singaporeans love the -Taiwan-grown mandarin oranges the most,” Chou said.
None of the three Southeast Asian countries are able to cultivate the fruit because of -unsuitable climates, pushing up demand for Taiwan-grown ponkans even more.
Chou, who has run his Greater Tainan-based business for more than 30 years, said Taiwan ponkans are usually packed as premium gifts in those markets, with a 4kg box of 20 oranges selling for NT$350, triple the price in Taiwan.
The 250 tonnes of fruit he has shipped abroad in the past 13 months are enough for roughly 50,000 gift boxes, Chou said.