Piglet epidemic increases pressure on Taiwan to import more pork

By Jens Kastner, in Taipei

- Last updated on GMT

PEDv outbreak in Taiwan has pushing up pork prices
PEDv outbreak in Taiwan has pushing up pork prices

Related tags International trade Taiwan Livestock Pork

Porcine epidemic diarrhoea virus (PEDv) killed around 150,000 young pigs in Taiwan from October last year to this February, causing pork prices to reach a 10-year high in the country.

With local elections due in November, the government has been speaking out about alleged price gouging, while at the same time loosening import controls for European pork; after approval in March, a first shipment of 400 tonnes of frozen pork from France is expected to arrive in late May.

This is just in time for the annual Dragon Boat Festival on 2 June, which traditionally generates skyrocketing demand for pork. Previously, Taiwan, which sources most pork imports from Canada, the US and the Netherlands in that order, has imported only small amounts of French pork in cans.

"The European imports will keep pork prices on a reasonable level around the Dragon Boat Festival, but we are worried about what comes after then until the Mid-Autumn Festival [a celebration involving much outdoor barbecuing, this year on 8 September],"​ Wu Cheng-wuh, spokesman of the government’s Fair Trade Commission, told GlobalMeatNews.

"The supply shortage of local pork will be the most felt in the June-July period, given the height of the epidemic was in December last year, and newborn pigs need six to seven months to enter the market."

Wu added that making matters worse is a PEDv outbreak in the US, which has killed millions of baby pigs in less than a year, driving up world market pork prices.  

To offset these inflationary pressures, in early March, industry regulator Taiwan’s Council of Agriculture (COA) proposed halving import tariffs for pork from 12.5%.

However, opposition politicians jumped on the opportunity to woo Taiwan’s powerful agricultural lobby before the November polls by decrying the plan, causing the COA to stay mute on the possible tariff cuts since. Also politically too sensitive at this stage is scrapping an import ban on pork containing the lean meat-enhancer ractopamine, which would benefit the European meat industry, as the European Union, like Taiwan, bans the feed additive – widely used in the USA.

"The pork price issue puts the Taiwan government between a rock and hard place,"​ said Du Yu, chief executive officer of the Chen-Li Task Force for Agricultural Reform. "High pork prices during the folk festivals ahead will hurt them in the elections, but the tinkering with import tariffs or the scrapping of the ban for US ractopamine pork would cost them even dearer."

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