It could be the biggest global conflict around pineapple, even overshadowing the never-ending debate of whether it should be on the pizza or not.
Last month, China banned the import of pineapple from Taiwan, considering that there was a risk that “harmful organisms” in the fruit could affect its local crops.
The decision caused a stir in the government of Taiwan, which pointed out that the ban has nothing to do with polluting “organisms” but is another example of the political pressure that the Asian giant wants to exert on the island.
An island that Beijing considers a province of China.
In response, the government in Taiwan went out to find new clients in other countries and he asked the inhabitants of the island to consume the pineapple that the Chinese did not want.
In a tweet, Taiwan Vice President Lai Ching-te wrote: “Taiwanese pineapples are stronger than fighter jets. Geopolitical pressures cannot squeeze their delight.”
According to the Taiwan Council of Agriculture, the island produces about 420,000 tons of pineapple per year and about 10% of that production is exported mainly to China.
With the ban, Taiwanese farmers were left with an excess of their production and, as a consequence, exposed to a fall in the price of the fruit in the markets.
The president Tsai Ing-wen launched the “pineapple challenge” on social media, with the idea that local residents buy and consume more of this fruit (also called pineapple in some countries).
For his part, Taiwan’s Foreign Minister Joseph Wu used his official account to call on “like-minded friends around the world to support #Taiwan and join the #FreedomPineapple. ) “.
The de facto US and Canadian embassies in Taiwan did not hesitate to follow the invitation of the Taiwanese government.
The American Institute in Taiwan posted several photos on its Facebook page, including one of its director Brent Christensen with three pineapples on his desk. .
The Canadian Trade Office in Taipei also posted a photo of the entity’s staff around a pineapple pizza.
And in the image they remember that the idea of putting pineapple on pizza was born in Canada, not in Hawaii.
“We at the Canadian office like pineapple pizza, especially pineapples from Taiwan!” the post said.
In this sense, the Japanese market made a big difference by ordering 5,000 tons of pineapple, according to President Tsai.
Many users on Twitter expressed their support for Taiwan.
“I will definitely buy some. I tried it last year and found that even its heart is edible. Now I love its sweet and juicy taste,” wrote one user.
The Taiwanese government campaign resulted in sufficient purchase orders being generated to cover the quota of pineapples that China had stopped buying.
Now that means the rest of the production – 90% – is left for home consumption, so growers hope that buyers won’t tire of the taste of the fruit too soon.
Yang Yufan, with its organic crops in the south of the island, is known as the “prince of the pineapple”.
He told the BBC that in recent years Taiwanese farmers have focused their export efforts to China because inspections are quicker and easier than in other Asian markets such as Japan.
But he notes that agriculture in Taiwan needs to diversify because many of its exports depend on China.
“The pineapples we hope to harvest in 2022 they were seeded last year, so the problems we will face next year may be even bigger, “said Yang Yufan.
China insists the pineapples were not received because its customs officials have repeatedly detected various pests within the fruits from Taiwan.
Ma Xiaoguang, a spokesman for the Taiwan Affairs Office, described the action as a basic biosecurity precautionary measure.
However, in the last 12 months China has been accused of using ambiguous and opaque trade policies to punish its rivals.
For example, Australian agricultural producers are particularly concerned that their products are being subjected to unofficial bans or unsupported new regulations, in return for policies imposed by the Australian government.
Tsai rejects China’s considerations, noting that 99.97% of pineapples have passed inspections.
Now, biosecurity is a usually complicated issue, because species considered pests from abroad can cause real economic damage. But there is also a long history of using this argument as a weapon in trade disputes.
“Some of these considerations are motivated by legitimate concerns about the possible introduction of pests and diseases from abroad, against which most native species may have no defense,” explained Deborah Elms of the Asian Trade Center, a think tank that works on trade issues in Asia.
“But the rules on what are called sanitary and phytosanitary issues can also be a fairly easy way to block foreign trade.”
The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development database (Unctad) shows that China has 1,642 sanitary and phytosanitary restrictions, more than any other country except India, the United States, Panama and Peru.
But those numbers should be viewed with caution, Elms said, as they are not qualitative. And one poorly structured rule could be more restrictive than dozens of less stringent restrictions.
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Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.