Taiwan was not invited to a World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) meeting of experts on African swine fever currently being held in Beijing, a senior official from the Council of Agriculture (COA) said yesterday.
Although the council contacted the OIE headquarters in Paris early last week to express its intention to attend the meeting yesterday and today, it never received a response, said COA Deputy Minister Huang Chin-cheng (黃金城), who also serves on the Central Emergency Operation Center for African swine fever.
As a formal OIE member, “we would have definitely attended [the meeting] if it was not held in China,” Huang said, attributing Taiwan’s absence to Beijing’s “usual act” of blocking the nation from joining international events.
Judging from Beijing’s obstruction of Taiwan’s participation in the World Health Assembly, “of course it was going to block” Taiwan’s presence, especially with the meeting being held on its soil, which has been struck by the virus, Huang said.
The council does not expect that there would be any data released at the two-day meeting that have not been included in the OIE’s reports of current African swine fever outbreaks.
An assessment by the Central Emergency Operation Center concluded that African swine fever outbreaks in China would remain at their peak until June, but it could take longer because Beijing has kept the world in the dark on outbreaks of the deadly disease in China, Huang said.
Beijing’s public reporting of the number of African swine fever cases and animal losses has been “unreasonable and opaque” given the scale of the areas affected by the disease, Huang said.
On Sunday, the Chinese government for the first time reported cases of African swine fever in the Tibet Autonomous Region.
It had been one of the two remaining areas — along with Hainan — out of 31 provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions in China that had not been hit by the virus since the first outbreak was reported in Shenyang, Liaoning Province, on Aug. 3 last year.
Moreover, the percentage of pork products from China that were intercepted at Taiwan’s borders and tested positive for the infection has not fallen below 1 percent.
Japanese authorities have also recently found active African swine fever virus in pork sausages from China.
“That proves that China is still unable to stop infected pigs from being slaughtered and made into food products,” Huang said.
Because of Taiwan’s proximity to China, authorities are afraid that the virus could spread to the nation and decimate its pig farming industry, worth NT$80 billion (US$2.6 billion) a year.
Taiwan has adopted stiff fines against those attempting to bring in pork products from African swine fever-affected areas, including a fine of NT$200,000 for first-time offenders and NT$1 million for repeat offenders.
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