China which banned Taiwanese pineapples last year is yet again flexing its economic muscle with a recent ban on grouper fish and with this the Island nation is bracing itself for heavy economic losses.
Taiwan’s grouper industry is lucrative and China’s recent ban is going to strain Taipei’s economy. Be mindful of China’s growing appetite for live fish, Lin Chun-lai bought his grouper farm in southern Taiwan about a decade ago. After a few years, the former electrician made enough money to comfortably support his family of four. They even opened a small inn.
However, things were about to get soar. China abruptly banned all imports of grouper from the island. It was an apparent attempt by Beijing at turning the economic screws on Taiwan, a self-governed island that Beijing claims as its own territory.
This sudden ban by China has left Lin and other farmers like him off from their main market. It has endangered their livelihoods. This ban by China on grouper fish is giving a huge blow to the lucrative industry, reported New York Times.
“If I don’t farm groupers, what else can I do to live?” Lin asked as he stood on a short concrete wall looking out at the 2.5 acres of water, divided into pools, in which he is raising more than 70,000 fish.
The groupers were ready for harvest, but since the ban took effect a week ago he has not received orders from fish traders who would normally be calling at this time of the year.
On the other hand, Chinese customs officials said they had found banned chemicals and excessive levels of other drugs in grouper that had been recently imported from Taiwan. However, Taiwanese officials have argued that the ban was politically motivated.
In addition to flexing its economic muscle China is also looking at Taiwan with an eye to capture its territory. Chinese president Xi Jinping has said that Taiwan’s unification with China is inevitable.
Xi Jinping’s take on Taiwan is disregarded by most of Taiwan’s 23 million people. They are in favor of maintaining the island’s de facto independence.
As Beijing has ramped up pressure on the island, Taiwan has moved to strengthen economic and diplomatic ties with friendlier countries, including the United States, those in the European Union and Japan.
Beijing has also been sending military aircraft toward the island very frequently. It has tried to isolate Taiwan, peeling off its few remaining diplomatic allies and blocking it from joining international organizations.
Grouper fish ban is not first such ban. Prior to this, China also banned Taiwanese pineapples, and wax apples, last year after it said the fruits brought in pests. China is increasingly seeking to restrict the island’s access to China’s vast consumer market.
Taiwan has sometimes been able to blunt the impact of such measures. The public quickly rallied to support the island’s pineapple farmers.
Restaurants raced to introduce menus featuring pineapple-centred culinary creations, politicians posted photos of themselves eating “freedom pineapples” on social media and government departments encouraged public servants to eat more of the thorny fruit. Countries like Japan stepped in to help make up for the shortfall by increasing their imports of the island’s pineapples.
“Thanks to the support of the Taiwanese people, our business thrived even more than before,” said Hsieh Kun-sung, 61, a pineapple farmer in the southern city of Kaohsiung.
However for Taiwan’s grouper farmers, pivoting away from the Chinese market may not be as easy. 91 percent of grouper exports, worth more than USD 50 million, went to China, last year according to Taiwanese government data.
The fish, which is known for its lean and moist meat, is regarded in Taiwan as relatively high-end seafood typically eaten on special occasions, unlike pineapple. Since China’s ban, the price of one type of grouper has already fallen to USD 3.30 per pound from USD 4, according to Lin, the grouper farmer, as per the media portal. (ANI)