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Ban on food items causes Taiwan $203.2m loss

Ban on food items causes Taiwan $203.2m loss

TAIPEI: Taiwan suffered a big loss of NT$6.38 billion (US$203.2 million) to food exporters this year due to the ban imposed by the international countries on its food items which accounts for 7.5 percent of the whole year’s food exports.

Six countries, all in Asia, imposed bans on select food items from Taiwan before gradually removing them as the government cracked down on the offending suppliers and took measures to strengthen food safety.

These six countries are included Japan, China, Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong and Macau. When food safety scares centered around edible oils erupted in Taiwan in September, the government expected the country’s processed food businesses and exports to take a major hit.

Japan imposed a ban on food products from Taiwan, but it lifted its restrictions on Taiwan-made non-oil food shipments on Oct. 17, thanks to Taiwan’s diplomatic efforts, according to David Hsu, deputy director general of the Bureau of Foreign Trade.

China still maintains its ban on certain problematic Taiwanese food makers and products, which is significant because 40 percent of Taiwan’s food exports are shipped to China.

Malaysia and Singapore, where a noticeable portion of their populations is ethnic Chinese, still keep some specific food products from Taiwan off store shelves.

Those efforts to deal with the crisis have helped mitigate the damage to Taiwanese food processors, at home and overseas, argue Francis Liang, the official in charge of the Taiwan External Trade Development Council (TAITRA), Taiwan’s main trade promotion body.

According to Liang, the incidents, mainly involving tainted lard-based cooking oils, have not given rise to systematic concerns overseas about Taiwan-made food products.

But based on the response received by Taiwanese products at trade shows in China and other overseas locations, Liang believes that the fallout from the edible oils scandal has not affected how buyers perceive Taiwanese food items in general.

In fact, he remains upbeat about the prospects for Taiwan’s food exporters and has tried turning the crisis into an opportunity since assuming his position atop the trade body in September.

TAITRA has, for example, barred questionable companies listed on the website of the Ministry of Health and Welfare, along with their products, from taking part in TAITRA-organized trade fairs, Liang said.

Food companies and edible oil producers that want to participate in TAITRA-hosted fairs must sign a pledge guaranteeing that they have never violated any laws or regulations in terms of materials or manufacturing processes.