Government decides to halve lard, pig fat tariffs


TAIPEI — Taiwan’s government has decided to halve the import duties on imported lard and pig fat to prevent major price fluctuations in lard-based oils that could soon be in short supply because of a nationwide edible oil scare.

The decision to cut in half the existing 20 percent duty on lard and 18 percent duty on pig fat for a limited period of six months was made at a meeting of finance, economic and agriculture officials at the Executive Yuan on Monday.

According to an official who attended the meeting, the adjusted tariffs will be reviewed after the six-month period. At that point, the duties could be cut further, said the official, who declined to be named.

The tariff cut proposal still needs to be approved by the Executive Yuan before it is carried out.

Economics Minister Duh Tyzz-jiun confirmed at a hearing of the Legislature’s Economics Committee that there will be a comprehensive review of the duties after the six-month period expires.

The duties, he said, were designed to ease potential shortages of lard-based oils triggered by the recent discovery that domestic companies have been making their oils with raw materials not fit for human consumption.

The two companies at the heart of the most recent oil scandal, which used oil designated for animal feed use in their edible oils, are said to have an 80 percent share of the domestic lard-based oil market.

Lard is commonly used in the production of traditional Chinese snacks and dumplings, and lard-based cooking oil is widely used by restaurants and street food stands to deep-fry foods and by food companies to produce processed goods.

Some lawmakers contended that the planned tariff cuts would do nothing but profit traders who would not pass the benefits of lower duties to consumers even if the duties were lowered to zero, but Duh stressed that the measure was only temporary. What the government is hoping is “for the prices not to fluctuate too much when the supply of lard is insufficient,” the official said. “That’s what we’re trying to do.”