Australia’s largest pineapple grower and a federal politician are concerned about the biosecurity risks of importing Taiwanese pineapples into the country after the Taipei Times reported that six tonnes of the fruit would be shipped to Australia in May.
This comes after Taiwan’s vice president wrote on Twitter on March 1 that an Australian importer had ordered Taiwanese pineapples.
A spokesperson from Taiwan’s Council of Agriculture told The Epoch Times on March 16 that the Taiwanese exporter was busy preparing the shipment and that a media conference is planned to be held in Australia. They did not confirm the quantity being shipped.
Agriculture Minister David Littleproud told The Epoch Times on March 16, “To date, there have been no imports of pineapples from Taiwan. That is a commercial matter.”
“Trade is a two-way street,” he said. “Pineapples from Taiwan can only be imported if exporters meet the strict biosecurity protocol approved in March 2020.”
The pineapples must meet certain conditions to be allowed into Australia, such as being decrowned and coming from professional production regions.
The trade arrangement with Taiwan has opened Australia up as a new export market for its pineapple crop.
Taiwan has been looking to sell its pineapples into new markets after Beijing’s snap decision to unilaterally ban imports of fresh pineapples from Taiwan.
“Purchases from China are being replaced with domestic use and orders from Japan, Australia, Singapore, Vietnam, and Middle East countries,” Taiwan’s Vice President Lai Ching-te wrote on Twitter. “The traveling pineapples are looking forward to their new visas.”
But the arrangement has upset Australian federal cross bench politician Bob Katter, who said that he had been in contact with pineapple growers in his electorate who are worried about biosecurity problems.
“We don’t help Taiwan by wiping out yet another industry in Australia,” Katter said in a media release published on the Katter’s Australia Party Facebook page. “They have diseases we don’t have. They have cheaper and more abundant labour than we have. So our growers will not be able to compete.”
Katter plans to write to the agriculture minister, trade minister, and prime minister calling on them to reverse the decision to allow the imports of pineapples from Taiwan, which was granted last year.
Both Australia and Taiwan can produce pineapples all year round. Australia produced 76,002 tonnes in 2017-18, while Taiwan produced 385,000 tonnes in 2013, and exported 10,000 tonnes in 2015, according to the Department of Agriculture.
Gavin Scurr, the director of Australia’s largest pineapple grower, Piñata Farms, told the ABC that local farmers were concerned about the biosecurity risks.
“We grow plenty of pineapples in Australia, they are well supplied throughout the year [to consumers], and obviously they’re much fresher [than imports] because they’re grown here,” he told ABC Rural. “So you’ve got to question why we’d even take any risk [on importing pineapples]?”
Meanwhile, Katter has warned that the Morrison government risks following in the footsteps of past governments by destroying another local industry.
“This is once again another agricultural industry that is about to be sacrificed on the altar of free markets,” Katter said. “We are now a net importer of fruit and vegetables. Most people don’t believe me when I say that but you can check it up with the ABS.
“Cattle, wool, fish, dairy, tobacco, maize, eggs have all been slaughtered by the major parties and their obsession with deregulation and free markets,” he said.
He said that the big supermarket chains, Woolworths and Coles, will reap the rewards.
“In the last 30 years, food prices have gone up 300 percent but inflation has gone up 200 percent. You are paying double for the price of food these days,” Katter said. “To wipe out another element of our fruit and vegetable production is just not acceptable.”