Mon, Oct 19, 2015 - Page 8 News List

TPP a chance to revive pig farms

By Du Yu 杜宇

The government and the opposition seem to have reached an agreement on entering the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), but for fear of losing support in rural areas, they have avoided announcing the premise for starting the negotiations — allowing the import of US pork treated with ractopamine.

The problem is that the import of treated pork would impact the pork industry and food safety in the nation much more severely than the deregulated import of US beef.

Also, since entry into the TPP would slash NT$2 billion (US$53 million) from the nation’s agricultural production and product processing, and cut about 10,000 jobs in the industry, the government should proceed with caution, while bearing in mind that the EU and China refuse to import US pork containing ractopamine residues.

In the past, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) criticized President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration for cutting secret deals with the US over the deregulation of beef imports. Taiwanese are now wondering if a similar thing would happen if DPP presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) wins the Jan. 16 election and if her party — in the event of securing a legislative majority — would follow in the footsteps of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), passing such legislation without letting the Cabinet address public health concerns, listen to public opinion and prepare appropriate measures.

Before deciding on who to vote for, people should consider how to make the legislature reflect public opinion and act as a counterweight to the government by representing the public in controlling entry into the TPP, the cross-strait agreements on trade in goods and services, and other free-trade agreements.

The number of pig farmers and pigs have been falling due to rising feed prices; piglet deaths from swine fever, the porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome and porcine diarrhea; changing domestic consumption patterns; shrinking litter sizes; and other industry-related issues.

The number of pig farmers has dropped from a peak of more than 10,000 to about 8,000 and the number of pigs has dropped from more than 10 million to about 5 million. The main reason for this is small-scale family operations that constitute the bulk of the industry not having the resources to invest in a capital-intensive, high-tech pig farming model.

About 70 percent of pig farmers rely on traditional farming methods, and the resulting high pork prices and low production volume makes it difficult for them to compete with imported pork. Also, only a minority can obtain agricultural product traceability.

Because domestic epidemics have not been eliminated, it is difficult to export Taiwanese pork, which means that the pork industry is a domestic demand market and every year, the nation imports between 30,000 and 40,000 tonnes of pork from the US and the Netherlands. The limited domestic consumption means that if import volumes are further relaxed as a result of entry into the TPP, it would place severe restrictions on domestic pig farming.

Until the overall standards for pig farming have been elevated, and a classification and auctioning system for pork has been established, rushing through lower customs tariffs and allowing the import of US pork containing ractopamine residue would have a massive impact on the domestic industry, and this is an issue that the government must not take lightly.

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