An NT$2.6 billion (US$84 million) project for improving the health of Taiwan’s pigs and boosting production of biogas from their manure was greenlighted Feb. 20 by the National Development Council, paving the way for a significant boost to the sector’s international competitiveness.
Proposed by the Council of Agriculture under the Executive Yuan, the four-year plan is expected to be finalized within a week. Its main goals include having Taiwan removed from the list of foot-and-mouth disease areas maintained by Paris-based World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) and promoting the sector as a leading source of biogas—a renewable energy source comprising mainly methane and carbon dioxide.
Some of the measures for achieving the first target are improving vaccine penetration rates and increasing the frequency with which pig-transporting vehicles are disinfected. Taiwan was added to the FMD list following an outbreak of the highly contagious viral disease in March 1997, a move resulting in a ban on its fresh pork exports.
Taiwan can apply for delisting by the OIE if it remains free of FMD for one year after discontinuing the use of vaccines. It is expected this will take place in July 2018, with an application submitted 12 months later, according to the COA.
Concerning the second target, piggeries with at least 5,000 or more pigs will receive subsidies and support from the COA in establishing and upgrading manure treatment facilities for the production of biogas. NDC Deputy Minister Kung Ming-hsin said it is hoped that such incentives will encourage pig farmers to play a bigger role in the renewable energy industry and serve as an example for other sectors in the circular economy.
The project also enhances food security by improving pork traceability and upgrading cold storage facilities at the slaughtering, transporting and retailing stages of the supply chain. In addition, it requires elementary schools to use more Taiwan-produced pork in lunches as way of boosting revenues for local pig farmers.
Pig farming is a major sector in Taiwan’s agricultural industry. More than 7,600 piggeries raise 5.4 million pigs nationwide, with the vast majority situated in the south of the country. In 2015, the sector boasted a production value of around NT$71.7 billion. (OC-E) [/restrict]