Agricultural experts yesterday urged the government to reduce reliance on China, which is the nation’s largest export destination for agricultural products, by finding other markets and seeking patent protection for some of Taiwan’s unique plants.
On Friday, China announced that it was suspending imports of pineapples from Taiwan on the grounds that it had found scale insects among the fruit.
The same day, Chinese media promoted Hsuwen pineapples produced in China’s Guangdong Province, which are actually a variety of pineapple from Taiwan.
Wu Rong-jieh (吳榮杰), an honorary professor at National Taiwan University’s Department of Agricultural Economics, said it is no secret that some people have transferred agricultural technology to China.
“Some consider personal interests above national interests and take the technology with them to China because of the short-term benefits. Others do not even consider China a hostile nation and even think of it as a motherland. Technology transfer becomes inevitable when you confuse political and economic issues,” Wu said.
For example, Taiwan was once known for its giant groupers, which would take three years to grow, he said, adding that the market price went as high as NT$1,500 per 600g at one point.
In 2008, after the technology used to raise giant groupers was given to China, many large indoor grouper facilities were built in China’s Fujian Province.
Taiwan and China signed an economic cooperation framework agreement in 2010, which listed giant groupers as one of the tax-free items, and by 2014, the number of groupers produced in Taiwan reached a record 26,000 tonnes, 80 percent of which were exported to China, Wu said.
However, groupers from China began to be sold in Taiwan in 2012, with the market price sliding to NT$500 per 600g, he said, adding that by then eight times more groupers were being produced in China than what was being produced in Taiwan.
Since 2016, China has imposed a 13 percent business tax on groupers imported from Taiwan, Wu said, adding that the market price for grouper has dropped below NT$250 per 600g.
“We should not rely on the Chinese market anymore and need to quickly find other reliable, high-end markets,” he said.
Yang Ming-hsien (楊明憲), a professor at Feng Chia University’s Department of International Business, said even if China managed to obtain fruit-growing technology from Taiwan, the fruit grown there might not be as good if farmers do not have the same management skills and the climate is different.
Some of the nation’s unique plant varieties should be patented to protect intellectual property rights, he said, adding that this could be used as a strategy to compete with other countries.
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