Sat, Nov 19, 2005 - Page 11 News List

Government will offset farmers' losses if it culls

COMFORTING Although Taiwan is still avian flu-free, an official has moved to reassure farmers that they will not incur losses in the event that culling is necessary

CNA , TAIPEI

The nation's top agricultural official said yesterday that if the government has to cull poultry on a large scale in the event of an avian flu outbreak, it will compensate the losses of poultry farmers "based on market prices."

Council of Agriculture (COA) Chairman Lee Chin-lung (李金龍), made the remarks when he was invited by the legislative caucus of the Taiwan Solitary Union to report on the government's preparations for the possible onslaught of avian flu.

Lee said that experience in other countries has shown that if the extermination of poultry is not thorough enough in an avian flu outbreak, surviving chickens, ducks and geese could very easily prevent the disease from being contained.

He noted that Taiwan is still avian flu-free, although neighboring countries such as Japan, South Korea, China and Vietnam have become infected.

Taiwan has heightened its alert against avian flu, he said, adding that the council has strengthened monitoring of migratory birds as well as birds in captivity. The Coast Guard Administration has also stepped up a crackdown on bird and poultry smugglers, and the Department of Health (DOH) has stepped up research on the avian flu virus, he added.

"The avian flu control has been raised to a national security level," he added.

The nation's poultry and egg exports reached a three-year high of 4,509 tonnes in the first 10 months of this year, according to a report released yesterday by the council.

COA officials predicted that poultry exports will top 6,000 tonnes by the end of the year, thanks to the stable quality of Taiwan poultry.

Taiwan exported 5,270 tonnes of chickens, ducks and eggs in 2002, rising to 4,352 tonnes in 2003, the officials said. Exports decreased to 2,351 tonnes last year owing to the discovery of a less virulent form of avian influenza virus in some local poultry farms.

COA officials attributed the rise in poultry exports this year to the fact that the country has so far not been affected by the virulent H5N1 strain of the bird flu virus.

They pointed out that bird flu outbreaks have been reported in China and Thailand -- two of the world's four major chicken exporters. Of the two major duck exporters, including Taiwan and China, only Taiwan has not been affected.

A recent report by the British authorities that the H5N1 strain was detected in Taiwan-exported silver-eared mesias has drawn strong reaction from Taiwan, which claims that no bird in Taiwan has so far tested positive for the strain and doubts the credibility of the report.

As of Nov. 17, 130 people around the world are confirmed to have been infected, the World Health Organization said.

DOH Vice Minister Chen Shih-chung (陳實中), speaking on the same occasion, said that most of these cases have occurred from contact with infected poultry or contaminated surfaces; however, it is thought that a few cases of human-to-human spread of the H5N1 virus have occurred.

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