After two years of negotiations and preparatory talks between the Council of Agriculture (COA) and China’s General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ), Taiwan-grown rice has been granted entry to the Chinese market. The decision, which was made public in June after an agricultural delegation from China completed a tour of the island’s rice production facilities, was settled in a fifth round of talks that culminated in the Regulations and Management on the Exports of Taiwanese Rice to the Mainland.
A new trade accord that took two years to craft
With the objectives of increasing agricultural exports to China, resolving trade disputes and regulating inspection procedures, the COA evoked the Cross-Strait Agreement on Cooperation in Quarantine and Inspection of Agricultural Products. First established by the Fourth Chiang-Chen Talks in 2009, the bilateral agreement provided the basis of the newest cross-strait trade accord. Taiwan-grown rice has long enjoyed a reputation for quality – a fact reflected by the grain’s successful reception at all the trade shows held in the mainland – but commercial sales were once prohibited by Chinese law. The COA began negotiations with China’s AQSIQ at the end of 2010, a two-year process that led to June’s Conference on Cross-Strait Cooperation in Quarantine and Inspection of Agricultural Products, in which the Regulations and Management on the Exports of Taiwanese Rice to the Mainland was formally approved in the fifth round of talks.
Local rice mills subjected to stringent inspection standards
Citing the Regulations and Management on the Exports of Taiwanese Rice to the Mainland, the COA explained that all local rice mills need to first register with the COA’s Agriculture and Food Agency, pass the stipulated inspection rounds and apply for quality certification prior to receiving the official documentation for exporting to China. Packaging specifications including sizes, instructions and food labels are also required to comply with China’s AQSIQ standards. On the other hand, domestic exporters that qualify for the rice program will be able to enjoy preferential tariff treatment under the new trade accord.
Food security over export profits: COA
The COA pointed out that the nation’s total rice production output has long outstripped domestic demand, leaving a hefty surplus available for export purposes. China, as the second largest buyer of the island’s agricultural products, is the logical export destination for Taiwan-grown rice. After accounting for the nation’s food security, the COA has pinned the export quota for rice at 50 thousand metric tons for the second half of 2012, a figure to be adjusted if the need arises. The COA concluded that Taiwan-produced rice is unrivaled in both quality and choice of species, and that the government will collaborate with local producers and arrange special farming regions for the purpose of producing quality rice. To help mainland consumers differentiate between common China-grown rice and high-end Taiwanese rice, the council will also carry out marketing campaigns in the mainland to promote the quality of the island’s rice products.