TAIPEI (Reuters) – Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen called on people to eat more pineapples to help farmers on Friday, saying Taiwan had been “ambushed” by a ban on the fruit by neighbouring long-time rival China which claims the island as its own.
China said on Friday that starting in March it would suspend imports of pineapples from sub-tropical Taiwan, citing “harmful creatures” it said could come with the fruit, threatening China’s own agriculture.
The move prompted condemnation from Taiwan’s ruling party and Tsai said in a Facebook post that the island’s agricultural exports met international standards.
“China sent an ambush-like notice, unilaterally suspending the imports of Taiwan pineapples. This obviously was not a normal trade decision,” Tsai wrote without elaboration.
“To support the farmers, let’s eat pineapples all together!”
Taiwan’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) said on top of ongoing “military intimidation”, Beijing is also using the import ban to exert economic pressure on Taiwan, which counts China among its top trading partners despite political tensions.
“This is not the first time China has used agricultural exports to other countries as political threats,” the DPP said in a statement.
Beijing, which has never renounced the use of force to bring Taiwan under its control, has carried out repeated air missions in the southwestern corner of Taiwan’s air defence identification zone in recent months.
Taiwan’s air force scrambled for a second straight day last weekend after a dozen Chinese fighter aircraft and bombers carried out drills close to Taiwan-controlled islands in the disputed South China Sea.
Taiwan exported about 46,000 metric tons of pineapples last year, and more than 90% of them were sold to China, the DPP said.
(Reporting by Yimou Lee; Editing by Nick Macfie)