Taipei, Feb. 26 (CNA) Local government leaders and people in Taiwan's agricultural sector expressed anger and disappointment Friday over China's decision to suspend imports of Taiwanese pineapples, with many hoping to make up for the losses by increasing domestic sales.
The suspension, effective from March 1, was announced by China's General Administration of Customs earlier Friday, in response to what it said were various types of mealy bugs found in several batches of fresh pineapples shipped from Taiwan in 2020.
Government statistics show that over 90 percent of Taiwan's pineapple exports in 2020 went to China and had a value of NT$1.49 billion (US$53.39 million).
President Tsai Ing-wen noted in a Facebook post, however, that the total only accounted for around 10 percent of total production.
Still, the announcement was met with backlash from officials in several pineapple-producing localities in southern Taiwan.
In a Facebook post, Pingtung County Magistrate Pan Men-an said the imposition of a total import ban without advance consultation violated World Trade Organization (WTO) standards and undermined international trust in China as a trade partner.
Pan said his government has been working in recent years to open up new export markets in Asia, the Middle East and North America, as a means of diversifying trade risks associated with China.
Noting that some 30 percent of the land used for pineapple cultivation in Taiwan is in Pingtung, Pan urged people to help farmers overcome the impact of the ban by "using New Taiwan Dollars to buy pineapples."
Meanwhile, Chiayi County Magistrate Weng Chang-liang said the pests were only discovered in 13 out of some 6,200 batches of pineapples, and that in any case, the standard international practice is to accept the batches after they've undergone fumigation.
"I hope that mainland China will come to the table with Taiwan so that we can figure out what the problem is," he said.
Tainan Mayor Huang Wei-che, who dismissed the suspension as a "predictable political decision," said his government reached agreements last year to export locally grown pineapples to three prefectures in Japan.
Farmers, meanwhile, expressed differing views on the reasons for the ban.
A grower in Tainan's Guanmiao District, surnamed Li, said that mealy bugs have always been an occasional issue but have never resulted in a ban, leading him to believe that the announcement was politically motivated.
Another farmer in Pingtung, surnamed Hung, told CNA that stricter customs enforcement in China as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic could have led to the pests' discovery.
However, given that the risks of trading with China were well-known, and the fact that the suspension came during the peak harvest season, the government should do what it can to help promote domestic pineapple consumption, Hung said.