Expect fresher agricultural products to hit the market come November with the arrival of the first shipment of vegetables and fruits from Taiwan as the result of the official opening of agricultural  trade with Palau that took eight years to make.

Agriculture Director Fernando Sengebau said in an interview with Island Times yesterday evening that with the opening of agricultural trade with Taiwan, the first imports will arrive in the last week of November which means having fresher supplies just before the Christmas season comes in.

Sengebau said that shipment of agricultural products from Taiwan will only take around 14 days to reach Palau as compare to the import of the same products from the United States which takes around 25 days.

Currently, most agricultural products in Palau are imported from the United States.

According to Sengebau, the first attempt to open agricultural trade with Taiwan was in 2010 under the tenure of then Taiwan Ambassador to Palau Maggie Tien.

During Ambassador Tien’s time, Sengebau went to Taiwan for a fact-finding mission where he was able to visit treatment facilities, processing plants, and exporters to determine what certain agricultural products can be imported from Taiwan. He had also met with Taiwan’s Council of Agriculture.

However, nothing came out after that visit as Sengebau said that importers at that time are more comfortable with trading with the US.

Sengebau said that importers have been trading with US for so long and that setup was comfortable to them especially that they can pack everything, from vegetables to fruits and to agricultural products, inside a food container.

“So they never wanted to go to Taiwan to do the same,” Sengebau explained.

Fast forward to about five years later since the first fact-finding mission, Sengebau again found himself travelling to Taiwan for the same mission but this time, under Taiwan Ambassador Harry Tseng.

Sengebau recalled working with Ambassador Tseng in gathering key importers in Palau to see if they can open the trade with Taiwan that time.

Sengebau, however said that at that time, importers in Palau were faced with the dilemma of filling up their container with the imported agricultural products from Taiwan. This problem prompted BOA to suggest that the importers should instead share a container to be able to fill up it up with goods. But this suggestion was not taken by the importers who disagreed about the idea.

“They don’t want to share the container because there were issues about who’s going to take the products first and they don’t want to show their invoices to each other because they are competitors,” Sengebau explained.

Just last August, Sengebau again had the chance to visit Taiwan, this time under the administration of Taiwan’s current Ambassador Wallace Chow, with the help of MNR Company General Manager Marvin Ngirutang and Surangel Whipps Jr. of Surangels and Sons who funded his trip.

“They (Ngirutang and Surangel Jr.) funded the trip for me this year to go back to Taiwan and finalized every treatment facility because it’s been like eight years since the last time I did [the mission]. So I have to verify again everything,” Sengebau said.

During his August visit in Taiwan, Sengebau met the group from Taipei Agricultural Products Marketing Corporation (TAPMC) who will be the supplier of agricultural products to be imported to Palau.

Delegates from TAPMC are currently in Palau to showcase their agricultural products to the community. Last night, September 13, they brought in samples of fruits and vegetables and show them to the guests at the Palasia Hotel. They are also going to showcase the same kinds of products today at the night market at the Ernguul Central Park. (Rhealyn C. Pojas)