TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Lithuania is looking to boost its food exports to Taiwan by tenfold after it obtains the export licenses later this year and looks forward to cooperating with a fellow democracy as the two countries shift away from Russia and China.
A Lithuanian delegation of 17 participants led by Vice Minister of Agriculture Egidijus Giedraitis arrived in Taiwan for a three-day visit on Wednesday (June 22). On the first day of the tour, the group attended the opening of the Food Taipei Mega Show where they unveiled Lithuania's pavilion, before also visiting the Cabinet, Ministry of Health and Welfare, and the Ministry of Economic Affairs.
On Thursday (June 23), the delegation had a high-level meeting with Taiwan's agricultural officials. The team later visited the Taoyuan District Agricultural Improvement Station to learn about the country's farming technology. That afternoon, the group visited I-Mei Foods' factory in Taoyuan's Nankan District, where they toured the firm's food safety laboratory among other facilities, before attending a banquet hosted by the Taiwanese food company.
Group visits Taoyuan District Agricultural Improvement Station. (Council of Agriculture photo)
In an interview with Taiwan News that evening, Giedraitis pointed out that there are natural synergies between the two countries because Lithuania is twice the size of Taiwan with only about a tenth of the population, and is a food exporter with 50% of its land being used for agriculture, while Taiwan is a food importer. Both countries are also market-driven economies with democratic values confronting large autocracies.
Giedraitis said that since jointing the European Union, Lithuania has competitive advantages in the following sectors, dairy, meat, grain, bakeries, beverages. He said that the Baltic nation exports its food products to 158 countries in the world, with exports during the pandemic actually increasing by 10%.
Rather than seeking economies of scale, Lithuania focuses on selling innovative products with a high added value, said Giedraitis. He noted that Lithuania is very suitable for agriculture and uses only a quarter of the pesticides that other EU members use, and on a per capita basis the country the top wheat exporter in the world.
Tour of I-Mei's food safety lab. (Taiwan News photo)
Amid warming ties, Giedraitis said over the past year Lithuania exported €2 million worth of food products to Taiwan, which was an increase of about 3% to 4% over the previous year. He said that this modest increase was not ideal, but they realized that there is a need to obtain export permissions to open access to the Taiwan market.
The vice minister said that talks about obtaining export permissions from Taiwan started at the beginning of the year and is one of the key priorities of the current visit. Areas that Lithuania is seeking to obtain permission to export include dairy, fish, poultry, beef and other meat products.
The country is looking to sell high-quality end-user products in supermarkets and ingredients for food manufacturers. For example, he mentioned possibly selling dairy ingredients to I-MEI Foods.
Delegation poses for photo with I-Mei officials. (Taiwan News photo)
Based on Taiwan's population, Giedraitis predicted that annual sales of food products should increase ten times to €20 million, once it obtains the export licenses. He said that this was the amount of food exports to China that had been lost after Beijing began sanctioning Vilnius for its strengthened ties with Taiwan.
Giedraitis predicted that these export permissions could be obtained by the late fall. He stated that Taiwan government officials have emphasized that processing these export licenses is a top priority.
He said that Lithuania is eager to cooperate with Taiwan because it is a fellow democratic country that is based on a market economy. Giedraitis said that Lithuanian business people want to conduct commerce with democratic countries because "we know what happens if you are dependent on China or on Russia. "We experienced all that," said Giedraitis as he observed that many European countries are now experiencing a painful severing of economic ties with Russia.