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Fruits from Taiwan embark mainland with wider, easier access
Updated: 2005-05-19 22:18

Apples, mangos, honey-dew melons and guavas landed Wednesday afternoon at Longwu Wharf in Shanghai, a major port on the eastern coast of China.

The six tons of tropical fruits were the first batch to arrive in Shanghai since the Chinese mainland provided easier customs access for about 10 types of fruits yielded from Taiwan.

The change occurred in the wake of the mainland visits of Lien Chan, chairman of Kuomingtang (KMT), or the Nationalist Party, and James CY Soong, chairman of the People First Party (PFP).

One tangible result after the visits was the facilitation of the sale of Taiwan fruits to the mainland.

On May 3, Chen Yunlin, director of the Taiwan Work Office of Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee and the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council, announced the mainland's decision to expand access of Taiwan fruits from 12 to 18 species, and offer zero tariff on at least 10 fruits.

Chen said the mainland had also prepared to provide conveniencefor fruits from Taiwan in terms of customs pass, inspection and quarantine.

The fruits will also be on display at the ongoing 7th China Cross-Straits Trade Fair held in Fuzhou, capital of east China's Fujian Province. Wuhan, capital of central Hubei Province, will welcome Taiwan fruits next month during a "Taiwan week" business promotion activity.

Prior to his announcement, a team to probe Taiwan farm produce,which was led by Vice Premier Wu Yi, has already been formed in early April. Team members included officials from the Ministry of Commerce, the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council, the Ministry of Agriculture, the Ministry of Communications and the State General Administration of Quality Inspection and Supervision and Quarantine.

The working team decided that farm produce from Taiwan would beimported via designated ports. It also set a facilitation principle for customs pass for the products.

In the meantime, the agriculture authority of Taiwan prepared to launch three flagship stores for farm produce from the province in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou. Shanghai decided to establish a trading center for such products in the later half of this year.

Since 1980s, agriculture began to lose its luster as industrialization and urbanization paced up in Taiwan. The sector was beset with small production scale and saturated domestic market, though its products, including tropical fruits, were of high quality and economic value and involved high growing technology imported from the Europe and the United States. From 2002, the prices of Taiwan farm produce went down 30-40 percent, with farmers' income dropping accordingly.

With overproduction and limited market, Taiwan has begun resorting to export expansion for its farm produce.

Taiwan agriculture experts said if only one third of Taiwan fruits entered the mainland market, investment by farmers on the island could be covered.

Last year, the Chinese mainland became the fourth export targetof Taiwan's farm produce, including tropical fruits, with 292 million US dollars in export volume, up 66 percent, according to the agriculture authority of Taiwan. Mainland customs sources said that in 2004, arrivals of 12 species of Taiwan fruits stood at 1. 64 million US dollars worth, or only 1.47 percent of the mainland' s total fruit imports.

Experts from both mainland and Taiwan believe that upon the zero tariff arrangement, Taiwan fruits will be priced 15 to 20 percent lower, which will help increase imports.

"Though prices will adjust downward to some extent, they will remain high as against those for mainland-growing fruits," said Li Jianru, who is in charge of fruit procurement at Huatang Shopping Mall in Beijing.

"Top-quality Taiwan fruits could target at high-end market in the mainland and vie for market share with imports from other regions," Li said.

Customers lined up in front of the Taiwan fruit stands at the Fuzhou across-Straits trade fair in Fuzhou, capital of East China' s Fujian province. High prices of the exhibits did not scare local attendees away.

"Grape fruit is priced at 19 yuan (2.3 US dollars) per kg and carambola, at 20 yuan (2.4 US dollar) per kg. In comparison with other imported fruits, they are quite affordable," said a young woman surnamed Wu, who attended the fair.

Nine of the 20-odd species on display at the trade fair, are included in the 18 species under the market-access expansion plan by the mainland. They will be sold at six supermarkets in Fuzhou after the trade fair.

According to Prof. Chen En with the research institute of Taiwan economy under the Jinan University based in south China's Guangzhou, the biggest obstacle to the sale of Taiwan's farm produce on the mainland is the absence of direct flights. As Taiwan authorities banned direct cargo and passenger flights across the straits, the farm produce of Taiwan has to be transferred to the mainland via a third place, resulting in higher cost, longer time of shipment and more possible risks.

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