Taiwan's president Tsai Ing-wen sworn in as drug-fed pork tensions rise
Four months after winning a landslide election in Taiwan, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) leader Tsai Ing-wen was sworn into office on Friday 20 May, but Ing-wen has been dogged by criticism over her stance on US pork imports.
Taiwan currently bans the leanness-enhancing, feed additive Ractopamine – a drug that is outlawed in 160 countries including the EU, Russia and China. The drug is still very much in use in the US with up to 80% of American hogs fed the additive, according to reports.
Taiwan’s opposition party, Kuomintang (KMT) today (20 May) voiced its opposition to relaxing the country’s ban on Ractopamine to accommodate imports of US pork. At a KMT press conference in Pingtung, members called for the domestic market to remain closed to US drug-fed pork, according to the China Post.
Domestic pork producers, too, fear that importing US pork could put pressure on local suppliers.
Trade figures show the EU and Canada are amongst the leading suppliers of pork to Taiwan, with the US accounting for little over 15%, according to UK levy board AHDB Pork. Last year, the US sent 12,200 tonnes of pork Taiwan, but exports in the first quarter of 2016 are down on the previous year.
AHDB Pork’s market intelligence manager, Stephen Howarth, suggested the use of Ractopamine has created a “dispute” between the two countries. “I gather the Taiwanese producers are strongly opposed to imports of Ractopamine-treated pork and have made quite a political issue out of it,” he said.
A policy decision on lifting the ban on US drug-fed pork has not been made by the Taiwanese government, but as Ing-wen gets accustomed to power the tides could change for Taiwan’s pork industry.