Nearly 130,000 young pigs in central and southern Taiwan have died since October last year due to a viral disease, which could drive up pork prices in summer.
Figures from the Council of Agriculture show that from October to Wednesday, about 127,000 piglets died after contracting porcine epidemic diarrhea (PED), a gastrointestinal disease that is mild in adult swine populations, but often deadly for younger swine.
Because about 80 percent of pig farms in Pingtung County have been hit by the PED epidemic, the price of pork “will definitely” rise around the Dragon Boat Festival in early June, Swine Association president Pan Lien-chou (潘連周) said.
Piglets have become difficult for farmers to buy, as 80 percent of those under 20 days old succumb to the disease.
As a result, the market price of a single young pig has skyrocketed from the regular NT$900 to NT$1,400, Pan said.
Some pig farmers in Pingtung suspect the PED outbreak was brought to the country by people traveling from the US or China.
This year’s outbreak has been more serious than any in the past, farmers said, adding that the authorities had not responded quickly enough.
While PED is not listed as a communicable disease in Taiwan, the US or Canada, the virus is easily transmitted between swine populations, usually through infected fecal matter, the council said.
An outbreak of PED in the US last year reportedly killed 1 million piglets across 23 states and has not yet been reined in.
Chang Hung-yu (張鴻猷), head of the Animal and Plant Disease Control Center of Yunlin County, said that local pig farms started reporting an outbreak of the disease late last year, but said that the situation is now under control.
The center dismissed worries that the dead pigs would be made into ground pork or sold as roast piglet, saying that the authorities have kept tabs on all piglets that died of the disease and sent them to incinerators.
Pig farmers in Yunlin have said they plan to make adjustments to pork production, a major ingredient in Taiwanese cuisine, to ensure a steady supply for festivities related to the Dragon Boat Festival, which falls on June 2.
Even so, they said that prices at the Ghost Festival on Aug. 10 this year are sure to see an impact, calling on the government to tackle the problem early.