Taiwan mayor seals deals with four SEA retails to meet electoral pledge to boost food exports

By Tingmin Koe

- Last updated on GMT

Taiwan mayor Han Kuo-Yu at the signing ceremony with NTUC FairPrice CEO Seah Kian Ping (left photo) and Sheng Siong CEO Lim Hock Chee (right photo).
Taiwan mayor Han Kuo-Yu at the signing ceremony with NTUC FairPrice CEO Seah Kian Ping (left photo) and Sheng Siong CEO Lim Hock Chee (right photo).

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The newly elected mayor of Kaohsiung municipality in Taiwan, Han Kuo-Yu, has signed four sets of food export deals with major retailers in Singapore and Malaysia, in a bid to fulfill his electoral promise.

Han signed the deals with Singapore’s supermarket chains NTUC FairPrice and Sheng Siong on February 26, and a little earlier with Malaysia’s distributor Euro-Atlantic and the country’s food trade association.

The deals with the two Singapore retailers will be worth a total of SGD$1.5m (US$1.1m) per year, while those with Malaysia are worth nearly USD$4m.

During two separate signing ceremonies with Singapore’s NTUC FairPrice and Sheng Siong, it was revealed that Kaohsiung would export fruits and vegetables such as guava, kyoho grapes, jujube, broccoli, cabbage, and processed items, such as frozen squid and fish balls.

Some of the contracts, for example, such as the one with NTUC FairPrice, will take effect from March 1.

The two retailers have a history of importing Kaohsiung’s food products, however the new deals will signal “a more stable cooperation” ​and “more stable export channels” ​for Kaohsiung, according to Han.

“The value of the deals might not be very significant, however, to the farmers and fishermen from Kaohsiung, this is of strong significance, (since) we have found a more stable market and a more stable export channel.

“I have time and again requested the agricultural administration to focus on the quality of our exports and offer a reasonable price, in order to maintain the competitiveness of our products in the long run.

“The products would be cheaper than Japan, but it may be slightly expensive than those from South America or South East Asia. It is not very practical for us to go completely economical,” ​Han said during one of the signing ceremonies.

Han, a Kuomintang (KMT) member who won the mayoral election in the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) stronghold of Kaohsiung last November, previously made the electoral promise of improving the local agricultural and fishery industries and clearing public debts by boosting food exports.

At the signing ceremony, CEO of NTUC FairPrice, Seah Kian Peng, said the agreement would allow the company to “tap on an additional food source and ensure greater cost savings for customers since we are able to purchase directly from the Kaohsiung City Government.

“Beyond this, Kaohsiung is well-known for its quality agricultural produce, and we are able to expand our range of products to cater to the evolving taste of increasingly cosmopolitan consumers.”

As for Sheng Siong, CEO Lim Hock Chee, said that besides Kaohsiung, the firm would also welcome imports from the other parts of Taiwan or other countries.

“Singapore is only a small country, so no matter who wants to come, we will welcome them, so long as their food is safe and well-controlled,”​ Lim said.

Steady increase

There has been a steady increase in the sales and number of Taiwanese food imported into Singapore.

In response to queries from FoodNavigator-Asia​, a NTUC FairPrice spokesman said that there was a 5% annual increase in the sales of Taiwanese products, including food and daily necessities.

At present, NTUC FairPrice imports about 50,000 products from over 80 countries, out of which, 400 are from Taiwan.

Seah added that he received queries from interested consumers when news of the agreement with Kaohsiung started to circulate.

“About a month back when the news got around that we were having this agreement, I was in one of the shops and one of the shoppers came to me asking, Mr Seah, where are the Taiwanese fruits and vegetables (from Kaohsiung)? Even without the partnership, we have already imported quite a lot of things from Taiwan, and with this agreement, I think it will give it a big boost and I am quite confident that things we bring from Taiwan and Kaohsiung will be well-received by the consumers,”​ Seah said.  

Starting from March, NTUC FairPrice will run two Taiwan Fairs annually that will include various activities and promotions.

On the other hand, Lim said that the sales of fresh produce from Taiwan had jumped 70% from 2016 to 2017, and Sheng Siong would be organising the Taiwan Food Fair for the 10th​ year this year. 

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