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Time Is Ripe for Taiwan Fruit Imports

Nineteen different types of fruit from Taiwan were on show yesterday at the Cross-Straits Agricultural Cooperation Exhibition in Shanghai.


Taiwan farmers attending the fair seemed pleased to see customers lining up to wait for the show's opening.


They swarmed in to find their favourites in 19 exhibited categories such as wax apples, guavas and mangos.


"Wax apples are around 10 yuan each (US$1.2) and one guava cost 12 yuan. But it does not matter as the Taiwan fruits are tasty," said Wu Jie, a Shanghai lady visiting the exhibition.


"The scene made us upbeat and it tells us we have a large market on the Chinese mainland," said Lin Zhihong, general manager at the Taiwan Good Commerce & Trading Co.


The 19 types of fruit 50 tons in all are on show and for sale at the three-day agriculture exhibition and trade fair at the Shanghai Exhibition Centre.


An Min, vice-minister of commerce, said the mainland will make more effort to facilitate the importing of Taiwan fruit, for example in customs clearance and quarantine.


On May 3, the mainland announced it would allow more access for Taiwan fruit, from 12 to 18 species, and offer zero tariffs on at least 15 types of fruit.


Since the 1980s, agriculture has been losing its sparkle in Taiwan thanks to industrialization and urbanization.


The sector was beset with small production scales and a saturated domestic market, although the products, including tropical fruit, were of a high quality and economic value and involved top technology from Europe and the United States. In 2002, the prices of Taiwan farm produce went down 30-40 per cent, with farmers' incomes dropping accordingly.


With overproduction and a limited market, Taiwan began resorting to increased exports for farm produce.


By the end of last year, about 5,000 Taiwan-invested farm companies had invested on the Chinese mainland, with an investment totaling US$3 billion.


Lin from the Good Co said he hoped to bring his planting technology and experience to Shanghai.


He Xijiong, leader of the Taiwan exhibitors, said he was worried about the fruit quality before the exhibition; it could not be delivered directly from Taiwan to Shanghai as there are no direct links across the Taiwan Straits.


Imports have to be shipped through a third port such as Hong Kong. But this time, Mawei Port in Fuzhou, the capital of Fujian Province, handled its first big Taiwan fruit transfer and sent it on to Shanghai.


"But we still wish the mainland and Taiwan can have a system to let fruit enter the mainland market more quickly," He said.


Last year, the Chinese mainland became the fourth export target of Taiwan's farm produce, with US$292 million in export volume, up 66 per cent, according to the agriculture authorities of Taiwan.


Experts from both the mainland and Taiwan believe that thanks to the zero tariff arrangement, Taiwan fruit will be priced 15 to 20 per cent lower, which will help to increase imports.


The mainland side also announced yesterday that it hoped to expand the pilot zone for Cross-Straits agricultural cooperation in Fujian Province. The zone was established eight years ago in two cities in the province and this time will be extended to the whole province. More provinces will also have the zones.


(China Daily July 19, 2005)


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