TOKYO: Consumers across Asia are consuming Taiwanese pineapples in an act of political solidarity after China banned fruit imports from the island earlier this month.
In Japan, social media users have shared photos showing supermarket shelves stripped of Taiwanese pineapples as well as recipes and tips on where to find the coveted fruit.
Hong Kong wholesalers say they have also noticed a rise in the number of people wanting to show their support for Taiwan.
Fruit lovers across the Asia-Pacific region appear to be heeding the island’s call for support since China imposed the ban, a move Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen described as an “ambush”.
Beijing cited the discovery of pests in the shipments as the reason for the ban.
“There are more customers asking for Taiwanese pineapples, saying it is to show their support,” said Sau Fan, who works for Fai Chai Kei Fruit Wholesale Company in Hong Kong’s Yau Ma Tei District.
Japan and Australia placed large orders of pineapples last week, according to agricultural officials. The Taipei-based Central News Agency reported that Singapore-based Taiwan businessmen demanded 25 tons.
Echoing the increase in sales European and Asian demand for Australian wine increased last year after China blacklisted imports of a range of agricultural products and commodities.
Taiwan shares special ties with many in Hong Kong when it comes to their common strained relations with the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party in Beijing.
President Tsai was one of the most outspoken supporters of the pro-democracy protests that swept the former British colony starting in 2019.
China views the “one country, two systems” framework it uses to govern Hong Kong as a model for the goal of one day exercising its control over Taiwan, which Beijing considers part of its territory.
Cai’s government rejects China’s claim, saying that Taiwan is already a de facto independent country awaiting greater international recognition.
Taiwan officials are confident that foreign consumers will continue to rally their cause. Lin Chihhong, vice president of international affairs with Taiwan’s Agriculture Council, said exporters will definitely sell more pineapples to international markets outside China in 2021 than last year.
China bought just over 40,000 tons of Taiwanese pineapples last year, accounting for more than 95% of exports. The council says domestic producers have already received orders for nearly 48,000 tons since China announced the ban in late February, of which 10,500 tons were orders from abroad.
China has a history of using its massive market to help achieve its policy goals. It imposed restrictions on Australian charcoal, wine, beef and lobster as relations with Canberra deteriorated.
Beijing has also used its huge masses of tourists as a political tool to signal its discontent, and has banned them from traveling to South Korea, the Philippines and Taiwan at various times during the past decade.
Taiwan exported just over $ 1 billion in food and agricultural products to China last year, with wines and pastries being the largest category by value, ahead of pineapples, feathers, fluff and custard apples.
Hills Lam, director of King of Golden Fruit Ltd at Yau Ma Tei, said he saw an increase in demand while downplaying the bug issue China mentioned.
“I don’t see any pests in the Taiwanese pineapple.”