China food safety

Chinese pig farmers warned not to cover up African swine fever

  • Slaughtering and selling sick or dead pigs and failing to report deaths will be pursued under criminal law, ministry says
  • Taipei had urged Beijing not to conceal information after dead pigs found on Taiwanese islands raised fear of Taiwan’s pigs becoming infected
PUBLISHED : Friday, 04 January, 2019, 2:17pm
UPDATED : Friday, 04 January, 2019, 10:39pm

China has warned the country’s pork industry that covering up cases of African swine fever is a crime, days after a dead pig was found on a Taiwanese beach and prompted Taipei to claim Beijing was not sharing accurate information on the disease.

The animal husbandry and veterinary affairs bureau is stepping up the investigation and punishment of illegal activity in the pig industry, said a statement published on the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs website on Friday.

Failing to report deaths and privately slaughtering and selling sick or dead pigs would be pursued under criminal law, it said, adding that compensation of 1,200 yuan (US$175) for each pig culled was sufficient incentive for farmers to report the disease.

In the worst epidemic of the disease ever seen, China has confirmed about 100 cases of African swine fever across 23 provinces since August last year. The disease, for which there is neither cure nor vaccine, is deadly to pigs, although does not harm people.

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But many experts believe the epidemic is even worse than has been reported, and Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen urged Beijing last month to “not conceal” information about the disease.

Tsai raised the issue again in a speech this week after a dead pig was found on a beach on Taiwan’s Quemoy island (also called Kinmen), a half-hour ferry ride from the east coast of China.

The pig has since been confirmed to have the African swine fever virus, and another dead pig was found on a nearby island on Friday, Taiwan’s official Central News Agency reported.

“During our recent efforts to prevent an African swine fever epidemic, China’s government has never followed the relevant agreements and provided Taiwan with accurate, real-time reports about the epidemic situation,” Tsai said.

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China has repeatedly said that the disease has been dealt with effectively and is under control. The agriculture ministry did not immediately respond to a fax seeking comment on Friday.

The dead animals found on the Taiwanese islands have stoked fears that Taiwan’s pigs could soon become infected with the disease.

Taiwan’s herd of 5.39 million pigs is tiny compared with China’s 700 million, but pork is the most popular meat in both places and domestic production in Taiwan reduces its need for imports of the staple meat.