Kinmen pork products banned from Taiwan

Beginning on Jan. 4, travelers who bring pork products, both raw and cooked, from Kinmen into Taiwan proper will be fined between NT$50,000 (US$1,616) and NT$1 million. (NOWnews)

TAIPEI (CNA) — Pork products from the offshore county of Kinmen will be prohibited from entering Taiwan proper for two weeks, beginning immediately, to ensure the safety of pigs and pork products on the main island, the head of the Council of Agriculture (COA) said on Jan. 3.

Acting Council of Agriculture (COA) Minister Chen Chi-chung (陳吉仲) made the announcement after a dead hog found Monday on a beach in Kinmen’s Jinsha Township tested positive on Thursday for African swine fever (ASF), a deadly virus spreading among pigs, with no cure and no vaccine.

Although the COA has yet to officially confirm whether the dead hog came from a local farm or floated from China to Kinmen, it said Thursday that laboratory tests showed that the genomic segments of the virus found on the dead hog are identical to those found on ASF-infected pigs in China.

Beginning on Jan. 4, travelers who bring pork products, both raw and cooked, from Kinmen into Taiwan proper will be fined between NT$50,000 (US$1,616) and NT$1 million, said Hsu Jung-bin (徐榮彬), a senior official with the COA’s Bureau of Animal and Plant Health Inspection and Quarantine.

The COA is currently inspecting the 68 hog farms and around 11,000 hogs in Kinmen for possible ASF infection. In response to the Kinmen test results, Taiwan Sugar Corp. (Taisugar), the largest hog supplier in Taiwan, said it will impose strict sanitary and disinfection measures in its hog farms and has already prepared large plots of land to be used for the disposal of carcasses in the event of an ASF outbreak.

Taisugar supplies around 300,000 hogs to the local market each year.

Meanwhile, Cabinet spokeswoman Kolas Yotaka said Premier Lai Ching-te (賴清德) is scheduled to hold an inter-ministerial meeting on Friday to coordinate the government’s response to the ASF threat.

Since the first confirmed case of ASF infection in swine was reported in China’s Liaoning Province in August, Taiwan has been on high alert, worried that a spread of the extremely deadly virus to Taiwan could devastate the country’s NT$80 billion (US$2.58 billion) pig farming industry.

To prevent the ASF virus from reaching Taiwan, the government has slapped heavy fines on passengers who bring in pork products from countries with ASF outbreaks, with first-time offenders liable to be fined NT$200,000 and repeat offenders NT$1 million.

By Wu Hsin-yun, Tsai Peng-min and Christie Chen