Fri, Dec 28, 2018 - Page 8 News List

The Liberty Times Editorial: Awareness key in swine fever fight

To prevent African swine fever spreading from China to Taiwan, President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) has urged Beijing to not cover up facts about the epidemic and that it has an obligation to provide up-to-date disease prevention information.

Taiwan Sugar Corp (Taisugar), Taiwan’s largest pig farming business, also warned that if the disease enters Taiwan, it would have a far greater economic impact than foot-and-mouth disease, as there is no vaccine.

Disease prevention is a long-term undertaking, it added.

The government has quickly implemented comprehensive prevention measures, treating the disease as a serious threat to national security. On Dec. 17, a central emergency operation center overseeing African swine fever prevention efforts was established by the Council of Agriculture (COA). Article 45-1 of the Statute for Prevention and Control of Infectious Animal Disease (動物傳染病防治條例) was also amended, taking effect on the same day.

People who illegally import pork products face a fine of NT$200,000 (US$6,493) if they are first-time offenders and NT$1 million for subsequent breaches. The heavy fines and rigorous quarantine checks are intended to keep the disease out of Taiwan.

The African swine fever outbreak in China has spun out of control, with at least 23 provinces affected, according to Chinese government data.

Yet, in an attempt to conceal the severity of the epidemic, reports from state-run China Central Television (CCTV) say there has been no large-scale spread of the disease.

Chinese like pork, and there are more than 400 million pigs in China. If the disease spins completely out of control, the situation could get so bad that no pork would be available for consumption, damaging related meat product businesses.

The potential effect is difficult to estimate. If the epidemic spreads, all neighboring countries would be at risk. Having close and frequent contact with Chinese people and commodities, Taiwan is likely to be affected and become one of the main disaster areas. If African swine fever enters Taiwan, the nation would pay a higher price than China.

The foot-and-mouth disease outbreak in 1997 was caused by infected pigs being smuggled from China, inflicting losses of NT$170 billion on Taiwan’s pig farming industry and related businesses. Taiwan could be listed as free of foot-and-mouth disease by 2020 if no more outbreaks occur. Any small disease control mishap at this key moment would ruin everything.

African swine fever is so frightening because there is no vaccine or treatment for it. Many infected countries have taken 20 to 30 years to be listed as being free from it. If Taiwan continues to bear the stigma of foot-and-mouth disease, being branded as an African swine fever-affected area would make it more difficult to restore the nation to its former glory as a massive pork exporter.

If there is an outbreak, the disease would have an adverse effect on many industries, including pork product, food processing and restaurant businesses. Taiwan’s favorite dish, braised pork rice, could vanish from menus for a period.

This is how harmful African swine fever could be, and Taiwan faces a high risk of being infected.

The two sides of the Taiwan Strait have close and frequent exchanges, with import and export trade amounting to hundreds of billions of US dollars every year, which inevitably includes Chinese meat products.

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