Ban pummels pomelo farmer

HUALIEN, Taiwan (AFP) — As a Taiwanese fighter jet screamed over the lush green fields of eastern Hualien county last week, pomelo farmer Mulin Ou sat in his orchard counting the cost of China’s latest push to squeeze the island.

Beijing, which claims democratic Taiwan as its own, launched drills in response to a visit by United States House Speaker Nancy Pelosi earlier this month, sending missiles into waters around the island — and it torpedoed exports of certain fruit and fish products to China with fresh import bans.

The overall impact of China’s latest economic sanctions is limited. But producers like Ou are paying a painful price.

“Our mainland orders have all been canceled. Our pomelos have no way of getting there,” he said.

His farm in Hualien’s Ruisui township has dispatched about 180,000 kilograms of the citrus fruit to the mainland every year for several decades.

“The clients are waiting for the pomelos, but there’s nothing we can do, it’s a political problem,” he shrugged.

“China is highly selective in choosing the instruments of economic sanctions against Taiwan,” Christina Lai, a research fellow at Taiwan’s government-run Academia Sinica told AFP.

“It has always refrained from damaging its domestic economy and technology industries. Beijing cannot afford to ban the most crucial imports from Taiwan — semiconductors, high-end instruments, or machinery,” she added.

The overall impact on Taiwan’s economy is therefore “very limited,” National Taiwan Normal University professor Fan Shih-ping said.

“It is a political manipulation, as China wants to show it is calling the shots and has control over Taiwan,” he added.

But for farmers who have become the victims of the latest uptick in tensions, the scale of the sanctions feels seismic.

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