Updated at 4.36pm: Hong Kong pig farmers can now apply for a voluntarily scheme to surrender their livestock licences and permanently end their operations, the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department said on Thursday The scheme is part of a move by the government to phase out pig farming in the territory and thus reduce the potential health hazards posed by pork and other pig meats. It offers financial compensation to people in the industry whose livelihoods might be affected. A spokesman for the department said people eligible for the voluntary surrender scheme included: All Hong Kong pig farmers; live pig transporters whose sole business is delivering live pigs from local pig farms to slaughterhouses; and local workers who will be affected by the scheme. 'Successful applicants will have ex-gratia payments, loans or one-off grant as specified in the package approved by the Legislative Council Finance Committee on April 28,' he said. Under the approved package, an ex-gratia payment ranging from $450,000 to $25.45 million each will be given to eligible pig farmers who voluntarily surrender their Livestock Keeping Licences and end rearing pigs permanently. And there will be loans of $50,000 for each vehicle on an unsecured basis for live pig transporters to upgrade or convert their vehicles for other business and a one-off grant of $18,000 to each affected local pig farm and transport workers. The spokesman added that applications for the scheme should be filed within the next year. The scheme to phase out the live pig industry in Hong Kong comes amid heightened public-health concerns, particularly over an increase in cases of Japanese encephalitis, a mosquito-borne disease linked to pig farms. Last July, Hong Kong experienced a major pork scare when a fatal disease caused by swine bacteria streptococcus suis broke out in Sichuan Province. At present there are 265 pig farms rearing about 330,000 pigs, generating about 520 tonnes of waste daily.