Taiwan bans pork from Italy under "escalating ASF cases in Sardinia" pretext
Taiwan veterinary watchdog, BAPHIQ, has banned Italian pork imports this week, claiming that "a rolling assessment of the international outbreak of African swine fever (ASF) concluded that the ASF epidemic on the Italian island of Sardinia is escalating, and the BAPHIQ has decided to remove Italy from its list of ASF-free countries."
In addition to banning the import of live pigs and pork products from Italy, the bureau has also prohibited visitors from bringing in undeclared Italian pork products. Fines are rolling from NT$200,000 ($6,630) for a first offense to NT$1 million ($33,150) for a second offense, according to Focus Taiwan newspaper.
A BAPHIQ statement mentions that OIE statistics showed Sardinia reported 45 cases of ASF in 2017, 90 cases in 2018 and 27 cases in the first half of 2019. "This indicates that the risk of the disease is spreading to mainland Italy," it said.
Nevertheless, ASF is present in Sardinia since 1978 and has been declared endemic decades ago. Some researchers attributed the persistence of the disease in central and eastern areas of the island to certain socio-economic factors, the existence of some local and traditional farming practices (i.e., unregistered free-ranging pigs known as brado animals) and the high density of wild boar in the region. The most significant factors were the number of medium-sized farms, the presence of brado animals and the combination of estimated wild boar density and mean altitude above sea level.
The surprising announcement made by BAPHIQ comes weeks after the Italian government on Feb. 2 suspended all flights from China, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan until April 28, citing efforts to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus. In 2019, Taiwan imported 1,747 tonnes of pork from Italy. Taiwan authorized imports of pork and pork products from Italy in 2018.
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