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Taiwan scrambles to divert grouper exports to other countries after China ban

China accounts for 90% of Taiwan’s grouper exports, fishing industry takes a hit because of embargo

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Grouper fish in Taiwan. (Tainan City Government photo)

Grouper fish in Taiwan. (Tainan City Government photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Taiwan eyes exporting 300 tons of grouper fish in the second half of this year after China announced a ban on the fish from Taiwan earlier this month.

The Chinese customs administration cited the detection of banned chemicals for the decision to suspend imports of Taiwan's groupers. The move follows restrictions on a number of Taiwanese fruits last year and is set to deal a blow to local fish farmers as China accounts for 90% of the exports.

Council of Agriculture (COA) official Lin Chia-jung (林家榮) said the council will work to divert the aquatic products to other overseas markets, including North America, New Zealand, Australia, Japan, and Southeast Asia, per CNA.

Businesses have not been keen to ship the fish to new markets due to soaring shipping costs caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Lin promised incentives would be rolled out soon for would-be exporters.

While people in Taiwan are used to eating groupers cooked whole, consumers in other markets may not like the way the fish is presented on their dining table. The COA will seek to promote the fish in the form of fillets or steaks, among other processed products.

Taiwan had an output of 17,000 tons of groupers in 2021, mostly in the south. The country exported 6,681 tons of fish last year, 91% of which headed to China, according to COA.

Taiwan has endeavored to diversify its agricultural exports away from China. Taiwan-grown atemoyas (a sugar apple and cherimoya hybrid), banned by the Chinese since 2021, have become available in the supermarkets of Japan and Singapore since April and have been well-received for their ice-cream-like taste.