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Access widened for Taiwan farm goods
By Xing Zhigang (China Daily)
Updated: 2005-03-02 01:32

Taiwanese farmers have been lured by the central government's preferential policies aimed at giving the mainland greater access to the island's agricultural products.

The action is widely hailed as "a kind and sincere move in the interest of Taiwanese farmers," by the leaders of Taiwan's major farmers' associations.

Last week, the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council, the Commerce Ministry and the Ministry of Agriculture pledged to grant wider market access to Taiwan's agricultural goods.

They also extended invitations to Taiwan's individual farmers and agricultural enterprises to invest in the mainland's agricultural sector.

The generous offer undoubtedly has great appeal to hundreds of thousands of Taiwanese farmers, who have suffered from declining sales of their products due to limited demand on the island.

"The mainland's pledge to boost cross-Straits agricultural co-operation has been exciting news for Taiwanese farmers," Koo Yuan-chun, president of the Taiwan Provincial Farmers' Association, was quoted as saying by China News Service.

"Closer exchanges between main-land and Taiwanese agricultural industries, which are highly com-plementary, will achieve mutual success." Koo revealed that the mainland has agreed to allow 12 kinds of Taiwanese fruits, including betelnuts, bananas and mangos, to enjoy tax-free treatment when sold in Beijing and Shanghai.

Taiwan's exports of farm produce to the mainland reached US$116 million in 2004, accounting for only 1 per cent of the mainland's total.

The figure is miserably low, given the mainland's growing demand for top-grade agricultural products from the island, said Song Xiaoming, general manager of the China National Seed Group Corporation.

Taiwan's agricultural products such as fruits, flowers and vegetables sell well in the mainland's top-end markets, Song said.

"The mainland does not have restrictions, or a so-called technical barrier, on imports of Taiwan's agricultural products at all," said Song, whose company is the mainland's largest seed firm.

"So it is high time for the island to seize the opportunity to take up the mainland market ahead of its competitors such as Thailand and Indonesia." Other Southeast Asian countries are also eyeing the potential mainland market.

Song, however, stressed that Taipei's decades-old ban on direct trade, transport and postal links across the Straits has been a major hurdle to the sale of Taiwan's agricultural products on the mainland.

Most farm produce from the island usually has to be exported to the mainland through entrepot trade, creating high business costs and risks.

"For instance, it is now extremely difficult for Taiwanese farmers to export some fruits with a short shelf life to the mainland due to the time used while being detoured through a third location," Song said.

"Export of Taiwan's agricultural products to the mainland will remain difficult unless Taiwan's authorities abandon their passive attitude towards cross-Straits agricultural trade and move to establish direct cross-Straits transport links at an early date," Song said.

(China Daily 03/02/2005 page2)

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