Taiwan-China milkfish deal suspended

Taiwan-China milkfish deal suspended

A cross-Taiwan Strait deal to export Taiwanese milkfish to China has been suspended this year, as chilly weather in Taiwan this winter caused a decrease in milkfish production, according to the Tainan City Milkfish Aquaculture Association.

In 2011, the association and Taiwan's Shinejia Foods Co. signed a deal with China's Shanghai Fisheries General Corp. (Group), and later with China's Haikui Seafood Group, to supply milkfish to Chinese buyers.

Due to the cold winter this year, however, prices for 5-inch milkfish fingerlings have tripled to NT$16 (US$0.49) per fingerling from NT$5 each last year, said Wang Wen-tsung, head of the Tainan City Milkfish Aquaculture Association and chairman of Shinejia Foods Co.

But the Chinese side is unwilling to accept an increased purchase price because milkfish has not fared as well as expected in the Chinese market, Wang said. He added that even if the Chinese offer to pay NT$66 per kilogram as they did last year, it would not be enough to cover costs, so Taiwanese aquaculturists would not be interested in signing contracts.

Under the deal, Tainan in southern Taiwan exported 5,000 tonnes of milkfish to China during the first year, and 6,000 tonnes per year after that.

A total of 208 milkfish farmer households in Tainan's Xuejia District participated in the deal, accounting for around 33 percent of all milkfish farmers in the district.

Exports of Taiwanese milkfish reach around 65,000 metric tons each year, with the Middle east, the United States and China being the main export markets, Wang said.

Kuo Wu-kuang, a fish farmer who has signed the deal, said China should be given credit for doing something "nobody did in decades" for local fishermen. He said the deal stabilized market prices of milkfish and protected fishermen from being exploited by wholesalers.

Liao Chi-wen, another fish farmer, also praised the deal, saying those who criticized it should propose other viable ways to help fish farmers.

The United Daily News cited Kuo Yi-pin, deputy director-general of the Tainan City government's Agriculture Bureau, as saying that the suspension of the deal will not have a big effect on Taiwan's milkfish industry because the number of milkfish sold under the deal accounted for only a small proportion of Taiwan's total milkfish sales.