Taiwan to improve grouper industry management after China ban

Taiwan's Council of Agriculture (COA) will establish a system to improve the management of grouper fish exports to prevent grouper farmers from using licenses belonging to other farmers to export their fish to China, COA Minister Chen Chi-chung (???) said Wednesday.

The export chaos surfaced after Beijing began implementing a ban on grouper imports from Taiwan from June 13, citing prohibited chemicals and excessive levels of oxytetracycline allegedly found in grouper imports since December last year.

Since the cross-strait Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) came into effect in 2010, China has required Taiwan's grouper farmers to provide required documents every year before exporting their fish to China, Chen said on Wednesday after a grouper promotional event.

The requirement is not in line with international practices pertaining to general agricultural trade, he noted.

As a result, some grouper farmers used export permits that had been granted by Chinese authorities to other farmers to export fish to China, according to Chen.

Beijing has unilaterally suspended the imports of grouper from Taiwan, Chen said, adding that the COA will set up a mechanism to better manage grouper farming, maintain the quality of the fish, and ensure safe use of chemicals in the fish.

Currently, there are more than 1,000 grouper farms in Taiwan and their annual grouper output is estimated to be nearly 20,000 metric tons, according to Chen.

Taiwan has banned 830 agricultural products from China to protect the interests of Taiwanese farmers, Chen said.

However, if China wants to discuss the ban, Taiwan also welcomes all forms of consultations, he added.

Meanwhile, Chen said he hoped that China would officially respond to the issue of the chemical testing of grouper fish.

Taiwan has provided a grouper testing report to the cross-strait animal and plant health inspection and quarantine platform, Chen said, adding that discussions on the issue would be welcome.

The COA had previously said that it had tested the fish but found no evidence of banned chemicals.

At the opening of a food fair in Taipei on Wednesday, President Tsai Ing-wen (???) said that food exports and sales are sometimes affected by political factors, citing China's import ban on grouper from Taiwan as an example.

Despite this, some international partners who share democratic values with Taiwan have stood up to show support for Taiwan's fish farmers, said Tsai.

For instance, fish farmers in Japan's Fukushima Prefecture said they would support Taiwan by eating "democratic fish," referring to grouper fish from Taiwan, which is a democracy.

To help Taiwanese fish farmers affected by China's grouper import ban, the COA on Tuesday rolled out a slew of measures to boost domestic sales and exports of the fish and help farmers continue fish farming.

These include providing interest-free loans for one year to eligible farmers who file applications from July to August, adjusting marketing and production periods, supporting domestic sales, helping with processing frozen storage, and facilitating the expansion of overseas markets other than China, according to the COA.

As of May, Taiwan has exported 3,059 metric tons of grouper fish to China and Hong Kong, and China's grouper import suspension is expected to reduce Taiwan's exports of the fish by 3,600 metric tons this year, according to the COA.

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel