BEIJING (REUTERS) - China on Monday (March 1) denied accusations by Taiwan that a ban on pineapples from the island was about politics, saying it was purely a matter of biosecurity, in an escalating war of words that has added to existing tensions.
China announced the ban last week, citing "harmful creatures" it said could come with the fruit, threatening China's own agriculture.
Taiwan, which China regards as a breakaway province to be reunified by force if necessary, says there is nothing wrong with its pineapples and that Beijing is using the fruit as another way to coerce the island.
China's Taiwan Affairs Office said the decision was "totally rational and necessary" and that customs had a responsibility to prevent diseases carried by plants from entering the country.
"The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) authorities have deliberately misrepresented and maliciously interpreted technical issues, taking the opportunity to attack and discredit the mainland," it said, referring to Taiwan's ruling party.
The DPP has neither the will nor the ability to solve practical problems, and they can only evade their own responsibility by "slandering the mainland", it added.
While Taiwan is best known internationally for exporting semiconductors, the sub-tropical island has a thriving fruit industry developed when it was a Japanese colony, and last year more than 90 per cent of its exported pineapples went to China.
Politicians have rallied behind pineapple farmers, posting pictures of themselves in fields with farmers and tucking into the fruit on their social media pages, encouraging domestic consumers to pick up the slack.
The government has also been asking Taiwanese companies to make bulk purchases, and looking for alternative export markets.
President Tsai Ing-wen on Sunday visited a pineapple farm in southern Taiwan, where the bulk of the fruit is grown and where the DPP traditionally enjoys strong support.
China has ramped up pressure to get Taiwan to accept Chinese sovereignty, including regularly flying fighter jets and bombers near Taiwan or into its air defence identification zone.