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Indonesian mangosteen exporters continue to urge China to lift ban

Indonesia is experiencing friction with its largest trading partner, China, over access to the Chinese market for its mangosteens.

Enggartiasto Lukita, Indonesia’s Trade Minister, told Asia Times on October 13, during a trade expo in Banten, on Java island, that: “We have complained about the export to China for mangosteens, bananas and bird nests.”

China, which surpassed the United States as Indonesia’s top export destination last year, in fact lifted import restrictions on Indonesian bananas and bird nests (which are used to make soup) in 2014 and 2015 respectively. However, as confirmed by Dandy Iswara, trade attache at the Indonesian embassy in Beijing, Indonesian mangosteens have been banned from entering China since 2012.

The reason given to the Indonesian trade office for the ban was that Indonesian mangosteens were found to contain traces of cadmium, a toxic chemical element.

“We have proved that this is not true,” said Lukita, “but still there is a restriction.” The office has written to China’s Ministry of Commerce in China to raise the issue.

Iswara, who has been pressing for the ban to be lifted, further clarified that the mangosteens that failed to comply with China’s import standards came from West Java. “Those plantations do have a higher composition of cadmium, but cadmium content in plantations in other areas like Sumatra is way lower,” said Iswara. The differences are caused by different types of soil, he added.

According to Chinese customs data, the country imported mangosteens worth a total US$54.63 million in the first half of 2017, and 99.29% were from Thailand. It is impossible to know what proportion originally came from Indonesia.

Back in 2012, before the ban was imposed, Indonesian mangosteen exports to China stood at US$36.64 million, that figure dropped to US$27,360 in 2016. according to Iswara, a handful of customs ports allow Indonesian mangosteens through in small quantities and with strict stipulations relating to their provenance.


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