TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Japanese aquaculture operators have reportedly expressed willingness to help purchase Taiwan-raised grouper fish after China announced an import ban earlier this month.
On June 10, China’s customs administration announced it would ban grouper fish imports from Taiwan starting June 13 over alleged banned chemicals and excessive levels of other substances. On his Facebook page Sunday, Japan’s Sankei Shimbun Taipei branch director Yaita Akio posted a report from his newspaper announcing that Lin Shenping (林慎平), the chairman of Japan’s largest fishery aquaculture company Hayashi Trout Farm Inc. (林養魚場), is leading the charge in establishing channels to import Taiwanese grouper.
The newspaper cited a source in the industry as saying, "Groupers are delicious in both Japanese and Western cuisine. The potential in Japan is huge." Lin previously served as the president of the Fukushima branch of the "Friends of Lee Teng-hui Association of Japan" and is a well-known pro-Taiwan activist.
Lin said that after the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami, people from all walks of life in Taiwan actively donated money to disaster-struck areas of Fukushima Prefecture and other locations, and now he wishes to give back. According to Lin, several large sushi chains have already expressed interest in selling grouper.
Through mediation by Chen Tangshan (陳唐山), chairman of the newly established Japanese-Taiwan exchange group “Abe Shinzo Friends Association," Lin has already been able to contact fish farm operators in Pingtung County and began to negotiate prices and transportation routes.
Lin said that in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster, he struggled to sell his fish for a period of time due to unfounded rumors that his fish stocks had been contaminated. Following this month's Chinese ban, Lin wrote to Taiwanese aquaculture firms that he could, "understand that feeling when the fish everyone has worked so hard to cultivate have been rejected for political reasons. Please rest assured that I will take everyone's groupers."
Lin plans to import two to three tons of grouper first, let restaurant operators try them, and arrange to explore the cooking methods suitable for Japanese consumers' tastes. Later, Lin will lead a delegation to visit Taiwan to personally confirm the breeding status of groupers and then officially start the import process.
Lin stressed, "It's not just a question of whether grouper is delicious, seeing that Taiwan is oppressed by China, there are many Japanese who want to support Taiwan. By eating 'Democracy Fish' to show solidarity with Taiwan, I think this trend will drive a lot of demand."
In response to Lin's plans, Chen Chien-han (陳建翰), a grouper farmer in Pingtung County was cited by the newspaper as saying "I'm really grateful and moved. I hope to take this opportunity to let Japanese friends learn about the deliciousness of grouper."
This "Democracy Fish" slogan harkens back to the "Freedom Pineapple" campaign Taiwan launched last year to counter China's politically-driven ban on the import of Taiwan-grown pineapples.