Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen has unleashed a social media campaign, asking Taiwanese citizens to buy more pineapples. Taiwan is also working to develop new overseas markets, including Singapore, Malaysia, and Australia (Image courtesy: Twitter/@iingwen)
Even as Taiwan gets ready to test-fire missiles and conduct other military drills to counter the month-long exercise of Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) in the South China Sea, it is the war over pineapples which is keeping the leadership and netizens on both sides of the Formosa Strait busy. Yes, you heard it right – the tropical fruit pineapple!
It all started last Friday when the General Administration of Customs (GAC) of China suddenly announced ban on importing Taiwanese pineapples starting March 1 as the 'mainland' agencies frequently detected 'harmful organisms' on the fruit.
Taken aback by the decision of its prime customer – over 90 per cent of Taiwan's 46,000 tonnes of exported pineapples went to China last year – Taiwan called on the Xi Jinping regime to immediately reverse the decision, saying the ban "flies in the face of rules-based, free and fair trade".
President Tsai Ing-wen also took to social media, kicking off a 'pineapple challenge' asking Taiwanese citizens to buy more of the fruit. "After Australian wine, unfair Chinese trade practices are now targeting Taiwanese Pineapple. But that won’t stop us. Whether in a smoothie, a cake, or freshly cut on a plate, our pineapples always hit the spot. Support our farmers and enjoy delicious Taiwanese fruit!" she tweeted.
Taipei made it clear that the fruits are of excellent quality and meet the most stringent international certification standards. But, Beijing remained unmoved.
However, the online appeals made by President Tsai and another one from Taiwanese Foreign Minister Joseph Wu to support the 'freedom pineapple' have gone viral to such an extent that the Taiwanese businesses and citizens have bought an entire year's worth of the tropical fruit in just four days.
Taiwan News reported today that country's farmers had received pre-orders for 41,687 tons of pineapples from companies, e-commerce platforms, and consumers, already exceeding the annual quantity of exports to China.
It quoted country's Council of Agriculture (COA) Minister Chen Chi-chung as saying that Taiwan will now work to develop new overseas markets, including Singapore, Malaysia, and Australia.
The orders should be piling up given the response on social media and field visits done by diplomatic community in Taipei.
Reuters has reported officials from the de facto US and Canadian embassies in Taiwan praising the quality of pineapples grown on the island, releasing photographs of their top diplomats in Taipei with the fruit after an import ban by China.
"The American Institute in Taiwan, under the hashtags #realfriendsrealprogress and #pineapplesolidarity, posted Facebook pictures of pineapples on their Taipei premises, including of its director Brent Christensen with three on his desk. Have you bought your pineapples? We have! it wrote," the report mentioned.
For now though, the rising sales of 'freedom pineapples' proves that the Taiwanese President has, just like Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, turned a crisis into opportunity.