The value of citrus fruit and two fish varieties subject to import bans imposed by China is estimated at NT$620 million (US$20.67 million), the Council of Agriculture said on Wednesday.
China announced a temporary suspension of imports of the products hours after US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s plane landed in Taiwan, saying it found excessive pesticide residue and scale insects in citrus fruit and the packaging of frozen largehead hairtail, and detected SARS-CoV-2 on packaging of Japanese horse mackerel.
The ban came one day after Beijing temporarily halted the imports of food products from more than 100 Taiwanese brands.
About 8,000 tonnes of citrus fruit, including 5,000 tonnes of pomeloes, as well as 5,500 tonnes of largehead hairtail and 1,000 tonnes of Japanese horse mackerel would likely be affected by the import ban over a year, the council said.
Other citrus fruit targeted by the ban include ponkan, murcott, lemon and grapefruit, totaling 3,000 tonnes, it said.
The council would introduce measures to help local businesses sell the affected produce and seafood in other markets, it added.
It plans to partner with local governments, retail franchises and supermarkets operated by farmers’ associations to sell 3,000 tonnes of citrus fruit; process another 3,500 tonnes; and expand overseas distribution channels for the remaining 1,500 tonnes.
China last year bought 79 percent of Taiwan’s largehead hairtail catch and 13 percent of its Japanese horse mackarel.
In the first half of this year, China bought 39 percent of Taiwan’s largehead hairtail and 27 percent of its Japanese horse mackarel.
About 4,500 tonnes to 5,500 tonnes of the two fish varieties, which have a combined value of NT$340 million, would be affected by the ban over a year, the council said.
It said it would work with fishers’ associations and groups, supermarket chains, online distribution channels and restaurants to sell 1,600 tonnes of the fish and process or freeze 3,000 tonnes.
The council announced a voucher program to boost domestic sales of the fruit and fish.
People who purchase at least NT$600 of the designated products online at Farmersbuy (farmersbuy.cas.org.tw), Fishgo (fishgo.atri.org.tw) or Gofish (gofish.atri.org.tw) would be eligible to enter a raffle for a chance to win a NT$200 voucher, which they can use at designated recreational farms, health food stores and restaurants.
Council Minister Chen Chi-chung (陳吉仲) said the agency has filed three complaints with the WTO’s Committee on Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures over the increasing number of import bans China has imposed on Taiwan since November last year.
If the issues are not resolved, the council would ask the committee to initiate its dispute settlement process to protect Taiwan’s interests, he said.
Separately, Yunlin County Commissioner Chang Li-shan (張麗善) said that the bans have affected about 45 companies in the county, including 12 that deal with agricultural produce.
She has ordered that a hotline be set up to listen to farmers’ needs as her administration develops policy solutions, Chang said.
Pingtung County Commissioner Pan Meng-an (潘孟安) said that while the county produces about 70 percent of Taiwan’s lemons, lemon exports to China have dropped from about 1,300 tonnes a year to 104 tonnes from January to April, adding that domestic demand has been particularly high this year.
The Taichung Agriculture Bureau said the only type of produce the city has sold to China in the past three years was murcotts.
The region has exported about 202 tonnes of murcotts to China this year, which accounts for less than 1 percent of Taichung’s annual production of about 46,800 tonnes of citrus fruit, it said.
Taiwan External Trade Development Council chairman James Huang (黃志芳) said that the body would continue to diversify export destinations for the affected produce based on the dietary habits of target markets.
Regarding China’s suspension of natural sand exports to Taiwan, also announced on Wednesday, the Ministry of Economic Affairs said that the nation imported about 70,000 tonnes of natural sand from China last year and has so far imported about 170,000 tonnes this year.
The export ban is likely to have a limited effect, as both figures account for less than 1 percent of the nation’s demand for natural sand, the ministry said.
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