TAIPEI (CNA) — Taiwan has sent a letter to the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), requesting its assistance to coordinate the epidemic prevention efforts in East Asia against African swine fever (ASF), but has not yet received a response, the Council of Agriculture (COA) said on Jan. 5.

Tu Wen-chen (杜文珍), deputy chief of COA’s Bureau of Animal and Plant Health Inspection and Quarantine, told CNA that Taiwan has been hoping for an OIE meeting to help address the issue of cooperation among countries in the region, including Taiwan and China, on the ASF issue.

Meanwhile, if any cases of ASF are confirmed in Taiwan, the government will ban the use of household food waste to feed pigs as that could be a major means of spreading the virus, the COA said.

Swill must be heated to a temperature of 90 degrees Celsius for 60 minutes to kill bacteria before being fed to pigs, but there are pig farms in Taiwan that have no adequate heating equipment for that purpose, the COA said.

As a result, the government is working to subsidize small-scale pig farmers who lack the necessary heating equipment so they can switch to crop-based feed, the COA said.

Each year, some 770,000 tons of kitchen waste is distributed to 357 pig farms in Taiwan for use as feed, according to data from the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA).

Food waste is collected free of cost by the EPA, mostly from restaurants, shops, and schools, but the agency said it will have to consider a fee if the government bans the use of kitchen waste for pigswill.

The collection fee will be based on a rate of NT$2,000 (US$65)-NT$3,000 per ton for food waste of more than 16 kilograms, the agency said.

Since the first confirmed case of ASF infection was reported in China’s Liaoning Province last August, Taiwan has been on high alert, worried that an outbreak of the extremely deadly virus could devastate its NT$80 billion pig farming industry.

As part of the efforts to prevent the ASF virus from reaching Taiwan, the government has imposed heavy fines for bringing 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 Yu Hsiao-han, Chang Ming-hsuan and Lee Hsin-Yin