In light of the strains of avian influenza wreaking havoc on the poultry farming sector in Yunlin County, which contained nearly half of the farms confirmed to be hit by the outbreaks, the Yunlin County Government yesterday hired three more teams of contract employees, doubling the number of workers from about 160 to more than 300.
The teams, comprised of members of the public, the police and the military, will be in charge of culling poultry, controlling traffic near affected sites and loading bags of carcasses onto trucks, with Council of Agriculture staffers overseeing the process, Yunlin County Department of Agriculture Director-General Chang Shih-chung (張世忠) said.
To speed up the disease control process, he said the county government has called on its employees to serve as volunteers in the operations.
Meanwhile, Bureau of Animal and Plant Health Inspection and Quarantine Director-General Chang Su-san (張淑賢) said that, with help from the Environmental Protection Administration, the nation’s sixth naphtha cracker yesterday set aside one of its incinerators for the disposal of dead poultry resulting from the culling to free up space at the three rendering plants in Yunlin, which have been operating near capacity during the outbreaks.
On the recovery of affected poultry farms, she said that sentinel ducks and chickens — birds used to test the severity of avian flu outbreaks — will be sent to facilities to ascertain that the premises are safe for poultry farming to resume.
However, she declined to speak on when the escalating outbreaks will be under control, saying: “I cannot give a time estimate yet.”
She also did not elucidate on the council’s claim that the newly discovered H5N2, H5N3 and H5N8 strains were brought into Taiwan by migratory birds — a claim that academics and animal protection groups have questioned.
“Different types of viruses exist in migratory birds, which have flown southbound to spend the winter. Given the number of viruses detected in the recent wave of outbreaks, we infer that they were most likely caused by migratory birds,” she said.
She called on proprietors of poultry farms to enhance disease prevention measures by setting up nets around the perimeter of their facilities to prevent infections from migratory birds.
Animal Husbandry Department division head Chiang Wen-chuan (江文全) said the price of pork yesterday rose to NT$85 per kilogram from NT$84, while the price of organically farmed chicken meat dropped from its Sunday price range of between NT$54.3 and NT$53.7 per 600g.
Chamber of Commerce Meat Association of the Republic Of China secretary-general Yuan Jen-chi (袁仁琦) said that while the wholesale price of pork has risen by about NT$10 per kilogram since the outbreaks began, its retail price has remained roughly the same.
“The meat market, as a traditional industry, responds more slowly to price fluctuations, because the price changes from one day to the next. We will keep an eye on the price until early next month before we decide whether to increase pork prices,” he said.
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