Taiwanese buying locally produced pineapples is not enough to help farmers after China on Monday suspended imports of the fruit from Taiwan, the New Power Party (NPP) said yesterday.
The government should seek to solve the dispute through WTO mechanisms and reconsider the nation’s export policies for agricultural products, NPP Chairwoman Chen Jiau-hua (陳椒華) said, adding that Taiwan relies too much on China for fruit exports.
The government has highlighted the importance of diversifying the nation’s export markets, but it is unclear whether it has ever surveyed potential markets and worked to improve the quality of fruit farming to enhance Taiwan’s international competitiveness, she said.
Beijing’s decision to suspend imports was unexpected, as only 0.21 percent of fruit from Taiwan failed import inspections, NPP international center director Jerry Liu (劉仕傑) said.
The suspension might contravene the WTO Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures, he said.
The Chinese government should quickly revise the ban and adhere to WTO rules and the Cross-Strait Agreement on Cooperation of Agricultural Product Quarantine and Inspection (海峽兩岸農產品檢疫檢驗合作協議), Liu said.
Taiwan’s representative at the trade organization should seek to settle the dispute with their Chinese counterparts, he said.
Exports of pineapples, wax apples and atemoyas to China have been increasing over the years, exposing Taiwan’s agricultural industry to Chinese influence, NPP Secretary-General Christy Pai (白卿芬) said.
“Taiwan needs a comprehensive fruit export policy,” Pai said.
Taiwan’s fruit exports have higher production costs than those of other nations, Pai said.
The government should help farmers place their products on international markets, with marketing plans targeted at Japan, South Korea, North America and Europe, she said.
It should also study the preferences of consumers in those countries and assist farmers in meeting the markets’ specific demands, she added.
Mitagri Co and Taiwan Agricultural Investment and Development Co (台農投資), two state-funded exporters, failed to promote Taiwanese agricultural products abroad, Pai said, adding that the nation would be uncompetitive if it does not change its agriculture policy.
Although the government has spent NT$1 billion (US$35.38 million) helping pineapple farmers, its overall annual budget for agricultural research is only NT$1.5 billion, NPP think tank executive director Lee Chao-li (李兆立) said.
“If the government wishes to upgrade the agriculture industry and export more agricultural products, it should first take care of the basics, such as research and development,” Lee said, citing as an example the success of recently developed mango-pineapple hybrids.
Government experts should focus on developing new products instead of doing extensive paperwork, he said.
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