The Paris-based World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) on Tuesday officially declared Taiwan proper, Penghu and Matsu a foot-and-mouth disease (FMD)-free zone where vaccination is not practiced, the Council of Agriculture and President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) announced on Facebook late on Tuesday night.
Kinmen was not included by the OIE as the county remains a FMD-free zone where vaccination is practiced.
The news, which had been expected, would facilitate the resumption of fresh pork exports after a 24-year hiatus.
Photo courtesy of Chiayi County Government
“Beginning now, Taiwan can finally resume pork exports and Taiwan’s pork can finally regain its place on the world stage,” Tsai wrote.
The council would not relax its guard as it works to prevent the spread of FMD and African swine fever in the nation, council Minister Chen Chi-chung (陳吉仲) wrote.
Chen added that the government hopes exports of fresh pork products could resume later this year.
He had previously said that Singapore was expected to be the first market.
The council said the nation’s pig farming industry had export sales of NT$60 billion (US$2.02 billion at the current exchange rate) in 1996, but was hit hard by an FMD outbreak in March 1997, which triggered the ban on exports of fresh pork products.
Prior to that outbreak, the nation had been free of the disease for more than 68 years
A few months after the outbreak, Taiwan began widespread FMD vaccinations and in 2003, it gained the status of an FMD-free nation where vaccination is practiced.
The government tried to end the vaccination program in 2009 in a bid to qualify for non-vaccination status, but the effort failed after seven FMD cases were reported that year.
Taiwan proper, Penghu and Matsu saw their last FMD case in 2013 and regained FMD-free status with vaccination in August 2017, while an outbreak in Kinmen occurred in 2015, resulting in the county only regaining its status in May 2018.
The government began a program on July 1, 2018, to eliminate the need for FMD inoculation everywhere but Kinmen, and in July last year it applied to the OIE for FMD-free status.
Foot-and-mouth disease is a highly contagious viral disease that affects cattle, swine, sheep, goats and other cloven-hoofed ruminants.
A total of 5.51 million pigs are being raised nationwide and pig farming last year was valued at NT$70.9 billion, council data showed.
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