China suspended imports of Taiwan mangoes, saying mealybug pests were found in the fruit, in a possible example of “fruit diplomacy” amid heightened tensions between the two near neighbors.
The suspension is effective Monday, and China’s General Administration of Customs has asked Taiwan to improve its quarantine management mechanism, the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council said in a statement. It identified Planococcus Minor mealybugs as the pest in question.
“If the pests spread (into China), that will cause a serious threat to the agricultural production and ecological safety of the mainland,” the Taiwan Affairs Office said.
China has used fruit in diplomacy before, and the suspension comes days after Beijing announced naval and airforce drills as a “stern warning” to what it called Taiwan independence forces. It has reacted angrily to the transit of Taiwan Vice President Lai Ching-te through the U.S., having also condemned his remarks about Taiwan’s status in an interview with Bloomberg Businessweek.
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Taiwan’s mangoes are mainly grown in the island’s southern areas, where Lai’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party has strong support, the island’s United Daily News noted after the ban was imposed.
Taiwan deeply regrets that China has “repeatedly” suspended trade arbitrarily, without scientific dialogue, the island’s Ministry of Agriculture said in a statement. It will continue urging China to conduct technical dialogue with Taiwan in search of a reasonable solution and the resumption of mango sales as early as possible.
China has a history of using trade to help it achieve its policy goals. In 2021, China surprised Taiwan with a move to block pineapple exports, blaming pests.
In 2005, when relations warmed following a visit to China by the head of the Beijing-friendly Kuomintang party, China announced plans to drop tariffs on more Taiwan fruits. Earlier this year, it lifted a nearly two-year ban on Taiwan’s sugar apples.
Taiwan will continue strengthening domestic marketing and expanding export markets to stabilize sales and prices of mangoes, the agricultural ministry said.
—With assistance from Phila Siu, Cindy Wang and Sing Yee Ong.
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