Japan to import ‘democracy fish’ to help Taiwan offset China ban


PINGTUNG COUNTY, Taiwan — On June 10, Chinese authorities abruptly announced an embargo on imports of Taiwanese grouper, a high-value type of fish.

They were reportedly exported to China from Pingtung County and Kaohsiung City in southern Taiwan, where they are produced, but now several thousand tons of grouper are left in limbo, and Taiwanese fish farmers in troubled waters.

In response, Japanese fish farmers have offered much-needed help and preparations are underway to import the fish to Japan. A person involved in the effort said, “Grouper pairs well with both Japanese and Western cuisines. There is a huge potential market in Japan.

President Shinpei Hayashi of Hayashi Trout Farm in Fukushima Prefecture plays a central role in this effort. He is an ardent Taiwanophile who headed the Fukushima branch of the Friends of Lee Teng Hui Association.

After the Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011, huge donations from various parts of Taiwan were sent to Fukushima Prefecture and other affected areas, and Hayashi always wanted to return the favor. Thanks to his support, several major sushi chains in Japan have shown interest in purchasing Taiwanese grouper.

Through the mediation of President Mark Chen of the Association of Friends of Shinzo Abe, a Japan-Taiwan exchange organization established in Taiwan in June, Hayashi contacted suppliers in Pingtung County to negotiate prices and transportation routes. .

This fish farmer shows a high-class grouper in southern Taiwan. (Photo by Akio Yaita)

Painful experience behind a helping hand

Hayashi has bitter memories of the reputational damage caused by unfounded rumors and misinformation after the Great East Japan Earthquake. He sent a message to his Taiwanese counterparts, saying, “I understand the pain you are going through. You took so much care in raising the fish, and now they can’t be sold because of this situation. Leave your groupers to me, and you can rest easy.

Hayashi and his team will import two to three tons of grouper as samples for food service providers so they can experiment with ways to cook the fish. Then they will send a delegation to Taiwan to check grouper farms before starting large-scale imports.

He said, “Many Japanese people want to support Taiwan, not only because the grouper tastes good, but also because Taiwan is oppressed by China. If we can encourage people to support Taiwan by eating’democracy fish“I think the demand will increase.”

Chen Jian-Han, a grouper farmer from Pingtung County, said, “I am overwhelmed with gratitude. I hope this will be an opportunity for the Japanese to discover the delights of grouper.

China’s General Administration of Customs cited the presence of banned chemicals as the reason for its suspension of imports of Taiwanese grouper. But Taiwan vehemently opposed the ban, calling it “baseless” and “contrary to international custom”.

China also imposed an embargo on Taiwanese pineapples in 2021, citing “pest detection”, among other reasons.

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(Read the column in Japanese on this link.)

Author and photographer: Akio Yaita, Taipei

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