Taiwan fishing community seeks fresh markets after China ban

Even before US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan last week, fish farmer Chen Sheng-You was looking for new business as trade restrictions cut him off from his main source of income. , China.

Amid simmering tensions between China and self-governing Taiwan, Beijing suspended purchases of grouper, Chen’s main product, in June after repeatedly detecting banned chemicals.

But the geopolitical storm that followed Pelosi’s visit on Aug. 2 is likely to further endanger the livelihoods of Chen and other farmers and fishermen in Pingtung County in the island’s south.

“Our job is to do fish farming,” Chen told Reuters. “We just hope that once the fish get bigger, we’ll sell them.”

“Due to political issues and our government’s lack of communication channel, the Chinese government is blocking our economy,” he said.

Beijing extended its seafood ban from Taiwan a day after Pelosi arrived, blocking shipments of chilled white striped hairtail and frozen horse mackerel, saying he found traces of the coronavirus on the packaging of some products .

The bans were widely seen as retaliation against Taiwan for allowing the visit, prompting China to launch unprecedented military drills around the island. China has described Pelosi’s visit as a provocation that undermines its sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Taiwan rejects China’s sovereignty claims and says only its 23.5 million people can decide their future.

“I personally don’t think it helped Taiwan,” Chen said of Pelosi’s visit. “It rather creates an economic loss for the Taiwanese people. I don’t know why she came.”

China has also banned imports of sand – used to make concrete – and suspended shipments from 35 Taiwanese exporters of biscuits and pastries.

In the first half of this year, Chinese imports from Taiwan reached a value of $122.5 billion, up 7.3 percent from a year earlier, according to data from China Customs. Sales of fish and other aquatic invertebrates from Taiwan to China amounted to 399 million yuan ($59 million).

According to Goldman Sachs, food exports to China accounted for only 0.4% of Taiwanese exports to China, which are dominated by high-tech products, and the sanctions mainly hit farmers and fishermen.

Taiwanese fishermen looked for other options. Zheng Rui-Long, owner of a fish processing plant in Pingtung, told Reuters he was trying to supply fish for bento boxes on Taiwan’s railway network.

“Fishermen here are indeed worried about not knowing where to sell the groupers,” he said.

“People need to live. We don’t understand politics too much, but we only need a friendly and peaceful relationship between China and Taiwan and also coexist.”