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Forbidden fruit: Banning pineapple in China leaves bad taste for Taiwan

Taipei: Taipei criticized the sudden Chinese ban on Taiwanese pineapples, describing the move today as “economic intimidation” and likening it to recent tariffs imposed by Beijing on Australian wine.

The value of trade with China – which considers the democratic autonomous island a part of its territory awaiting reunification – is about 50 million US dollars, and is Taiwan’s largest export market.

Beijing announced the ban this morning after it said, “I found pests in pineapples imported from Taiwan,” and said the rules were in line with the “regulations” of the mainland.

But the ruling Democratic Progressive Party on the island accused Beijing of “setting up an ambush” for Taiwan by imposing a political embargo that would come on March 1.

“It appears that China is repeating its measures against Australian wine last year to use economic intimidation in Taiwan,” the party said in a statement.

“We hope that Taiwanese will support Taiwanese pineapple just as Australians support Australian wine,” said presidential spokesman Xavier Zhang, adding that the government would support farmers.

Beijing has intensified its pressure on Taiwan since President Tsai Ingwen took office in 2016, as she considers the island a de facto sovereign state and not part of the “one China”.

Beijing has a record of imposing punitive duties during disputes with other countries.

Tariffs were imposed last year on Australian wine, among other things, as relations between the two countries were strained due to the tech giant Huawei and the origins of the Coronavirus.

Taiwanese Prime Minister Su Tseng-chang described the ban as “unreasonable”, saying that exports usually pass safety tests in China at nearly 100% rate.

Pineapple growers are currently preparing for the harvest season – last year Taiwan shipped about 42,000 tons of pineapples to China, 95% of its total fruit exports.

Agriculture Minister Chen Qichung has urged Beijing to sit down for talks with Taipei to solve the problem, but there has been no official contact between the two countries since 2016.

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