Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Irritant watch: Pork strikes the US-Taiwan relationship

Lunch yesterday.

Well, as predicted by many, including this blog, US ractopork is now becoming an issue in US-Taiwan relations. Another useful irritant. The China Post reports:
The Ministry of Economic Affairs (MOEA) denied a request to approve ractopamine-containing pork imports during yesterday's bilateral trade talks with the United States, which said it will broach the topic again.

The seventh round of Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) talks opened yesterday in Taipei after a six-year hiatus.

During the talks, U.S. negotiators pressured Taiwan to rethink its ban on pork imports containing ractopamine, a leanness-enhancing feed additive.

Deputy U.S. Trade Representative Demetrios Marantis, who headed an interagency U.S. delegation, “underscored his request that Taiwan's food safety measures — including those relating to meat exports — are based on science and consistent with international standards,” according to a statement released by the Office of the United States Trade Representative after the talks.

The MOEA turned down the request, saying that Taiwan will continue to “separate permits for importing beef and pork.”

Last year, the Cabinet removed a ban on U.S. beef containing ractopamine, after assuring the public that Taiwan's pork ban won't also be removed by default.
Lessee.... Taiwan wants US troops to die for Taiwanese if China invades Taiwan... but won't buy US pork.

US pork shipments to Taiwan were heavily impacted by the US use of ractopamine. The US wants to ship pork to Taiwan but wants to include toxic substances banned in over 100 countries. I've got a great idea -- stop producing pork with toxins in it and trying to ship it to Taiwan! Regain your markets, improve health. Win-win! Naw, that's too intelligent.

The hypocrisy never stops, because anyone who has ever studied the production of pork in Taiwan can only laugh at the idea that Taiwan is defending its food safety. The real problem is that production of pork in Taiwan is big business. This Canadian government report lays out some of the issues:
  • In 2009, Canada overtook the United States as the largest source of Taiwanese pork imports by weight, with 38.6 thousand tons worth of pork imported from Canada that year.
  • "Canadian packers provide better pork specifications and Canadian trimmings seem to be more competitive in quality than U.S. products. Canadian pork producers are benefiting in the wake of the U.S. pork ractopamine issue as they move to satisfy demand for pork in Taiwan" (U.S. Meat Export Federation, 2008).
  • Rising grain prices have negatively affected Taiwan's pork production and resulted in increased reliance on imports. This reliance on imports is expected to compound overtime (USDA, Exporter Guide, 2008; ,USDA Taiwan Livestock and Products, 2006).
  • ....recent troubles faced by domestic producers create opportunities for increased foreign imports. A number of Taiwanese hog operations have closed, following a surge in grain prices that began in 2007. A reported 756 farmers exited the industry and the number of pigs was reduced by 440,000 (U.S. Meat Export Federation, 2008).
  • Pork is a very important commodity in Taiwan's food supply and constitutes the largest portion of domestically produced meat, at 59% of the total.
  • Taiwan has a larger import market for poultry and beef than it does for pork, but not for lack of domestic demand. Rather, it is the larger capacity of domestic pork production that makes it less important as an import relative to poultry or beef.
  • Taiwan imports pork largely to offset shortfalls in its own domestic production. 
  • Pork is the largest single source of protein in the Taiwanese diet. It is also an important source of Vitamin A and Iron
It should be added that pork has important religious and cultural significance in Taiwan. Everyone has seen the offerings of pigs at temples or the God Pig competition. Pigs are also key symbols in local culture, and were used to represent the KMT in protests during the Martial Law era. When you mess with pork, you mess with the Taiwan identity.

Taiwan used to export pork, but the hoof and mouth disease outbreak here in the 1990s killed the export industry. Rising grain prices will probably continue to reduce output here in Taiwan. Rising grain prices... shudder... here's the outlook for 2013.
Don't miss the comments below! And check out my blog and its sidebars for events, links to previous posts and picture posts, and scores of links to other Taiwan blogs and forums! Delenda est, baby.


Anonymous said...

I am in the U.S.

Does the pork that I buy contain ractopamine? :( I had pork chops for dinner just last night. Yum.... I think.

Oh well... at least it's not chicken from KFC or Bojangles! :)


Anonymous said...

what kind of soup is that...

look so yummy.....

Michael Turton said...