The first-ever agricultural trade mission to Taiwan occurred April 22-25, and Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) administrator Ken Isley was upbeat on the positive outcomes from the mission. In 2018, Taiwan saw significant growth in U.S. soybean, beef and poultry purchases, and the trade mission offered opportunities to enhance growth in all agricultural markets.
The U.S. is the number-one supplier of agricultural and food products for Taiwan, accounting for one-third of all agricultural and food products imported into the island nation. Isley said it is in the top 10 destinations for U.S. agricultural and food products, with sales of $4 billion last year.
Even though it is a mature and steady market, it saw a growth rate of 19% last year, Isley added. Taiwan remains a stable and solid market, with potential for additional growth.
The trade mission included representatives from 49 U.S. agribusinesses and farm organizations as well as American Samoa director of agriculture Filifaatali M. Fuiava, Idaho State Department of Agriculture director Celia Gould and officials from the Georgia and Nebraska departments of agriculture. Isley said in terms of the trade mission, a total of 367 business-to-business meetings were conducted. He projected sales from those meetings of $15.6 million to occur during the next 12 months.
This trip did not bring in new promises for increased soybean sales, but Isley said there are goodwill return missions from Taiwan in the works likely for September, when soybeans clearly will be on the list of discussions.
Ractopamine was another discussion point among the government-to-government meetings. Isley said “continued frank discussions” were held, and Taiwan understands the request to fulfill requirements and provide access for pork and beef even if the source animals were fed ractopamine. No firm commitments were made; however, Isley said, “I do feel like [we made] progress there.”
Organics, and equivalency standards for organics, were another discussion point in the government-level talks.
Pork and beef sales to Taiwan have seen significant boosts recently. Isley said beef exports to the nation were reported at $515 million for 2018, an increase of 25% from the prior year. Poultry exports reached $210 million, an increase of 21%. “Comparing 2017 to 2018, we saw very high growth rates for both of those.”
Isley said there’s also a lot of buzz about well-known American steak restaurant Smith & Wollensky opening up a restaurant in Taiwan that will serve U.S. beef.
The FAS administrator said the subject of a bilateral free trade agreement with Taiwan didn’t come up specifically. “We would expect to see market access on beef or pork before any consideration there,” Isley noted.