《TAIPEI TIMES》 Local firms step up for pineapples
Pineapples and pineapple-based products are displayed in Tainan yesterday. Photo: Hung Jui-chin, Taipei Times
By Yang Yuan-ting and Lee Hsin-fang / Staff reporters
Taiwanese firms responded swiftly to a call to buy the nation’s surplus pineapple crop after China abruptly stopped imports, with 10 local firms placing orders totaling 1,600 tonnes, Council of Agriculture officials said yesterday.
China on Friday announced that it would suspend pineapple imports from Taiwan starting tomorrow, saying that various types of mealybugs were found in several batches of fresh pineapples bought from the nation last year.
Taiwanese farmers expressed anger and disappointment over the decision.
The council said it had dealt with the pests after China notified it of their discovery in 13 batches of pineapples sent between March and May last year.
It had not received reports of the pests since new measures took effect on Oct. 19, it said.
Excluding the 13 batches, 99.79 percent of the pineapples sent to China since last year have met Chinese import standards, it added.
Following China’s import ban, government officials called on Taiwanese to support the nation’s pineapple farmers, who are preparing for the harvest season.
The council has set up a hotline for companies to place large orders, and it took measures to stabilize pineapple prices.
Taiwan’s annual pineapple production has averaged about 420,000 tonnes over the past few years, of which nearly 50,000 tonnes were exported to China, government data showed.
Taiwan last year exported 41,661 tonnes of pineapples to China for NT$1.49 billion （US$52.64 million）, accounting for 91 percent of total pineapple exports, the data showed.
“We are looking at companies to place orders to present pineapples as gifts to employees and customers. We have already received orders for 1,600 tonnes in one day, which is close to 10 percent of our target of 20,000 tonnes for the domestic market,” council officials said yesterday. “If more companies join in, we could reach the target in 12 days.”
The council said it would strive to expand the fruit’s global market and export another 30,000 tonnes to other countries, which, combined with the 20,000 tonnes targeted for the domestic market, would make up for the shortfall created by the Chinese ban.
Premier Su Tseng-chang （蘇貞昌） is to visit Pingtung County’s Kaoshu Township （高樹） today to inspect the area’s pineapple farms and show support to pineapple farmers, sources said.
Su has approved a NT$1 billion package to stabilize pineapple prices, Cabinet spokesman Lo Ping-cheng （羅秉成） said, adding that the premier has also instructed the council to draw up plans to promote the fruit’s consumption.
Su deems the situation a trade issue and not a political one, sources said, adding that the council would seek the WTO’s help to negotiate with Beijing.
Minister of Foreign Affairs Joseph Wu （吳釗燮） took to Twitter on Friday, urging friends around the world to stand with Taiwan and “rally behind the #FreedomPineapple.”
Additional reporting by CNA