Prickly problem: Taiwan says won't be beaten by China pineapple ban

TAIPEI, March 3 (Reuters) - Taiwan will not be beaten by China's ban on pineapple imports and will rally round its farmers to turn crisis into opportunity with new markets and more sales at home, President Tsai Ing-wen said on Wednesday, offering a defiant rebuke to Beijing.

China last week stopped the import of Taiwanese pineapples, citing "harmful creatures" it said could come with the fruit.

Taiwan's infuriated government called the ban a political move to further pressure the Chinese-claimed island, a charge that China denied.

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Tsai, who has launched a "pineapple challenge" on her social media pages to get Taiwanese to buy more of the fruit, told reporters at the headquarters of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) that their strategy was paying off.

Since Friday when China announced the ban, orders for more than 41,000 metric tons of pineapples have come in, including 5,000 metric tons from Japan, she said.

"From crisis comes turning points. In the face of each challenge Taiwan will not be defeated but will become even stronger," she said, standing in front of pineapple products from Taiwan's four main producing areas in its south.

"As long as we unite and support the hard-working farmers and support our high quality products, the international community will stand on the same frontlines as Taiwan."

Taiwan has been heartened by support from the United States and Canada in particular for what Taiwan Foreign Minister Joseph Wu has called "freedom pineapples", with the two countries' de facto ambassadors in Taipei posting pictures on social media with the fruit. read more

Around 90% of Taiwan's pineapple exports went to China last year, though most production is consumed domestically.

Local politicians have been posting pictures of themselves in fields with farmers and tucking into the fruit on their social media pages, encouraging domestic consumers as well as other countries to pick up the slack left by China.

($1 = 27.8110 Taiwan dollars)

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Reporting by Ben Blanchard

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