TAIPEI - In response to the recent outbreak of new strains of H5N2 and H5N8 bird flu, the Council of Agriculture (COA) announced yesterday that farmers affected by the outbreaks will be subsidized for their losses. Executive Yuan Vice Premier Chang San-cheng expressed concern that the subsidies should be generous and support Taiwan's farmers.
COA Deputy Minister Wang Cheng-teng stated at a press conference yesterday that the council will subsidize 60 per cent of farmers' livestock that died due to the epidemic, while 100 per cent of the value of livestock culled by order of the council will be subsidized. In terms of the market rate of poultry that farmers are to be reimbursed, the council has yet to determine the price farmers will be quoted per bird.
Chang attended the COA's Bureau of Animal and Plant Health Inspection and Quarantine (BAPHIQ) meeting yesterday morning, which assembled the council's sixth emergency epidemic disaster response team. The new strain of H5N2 is a new type of bird flu that has never before been seen in the global agriculture industry, according to the COA. H5N8 is a bird flu affecting ducks and geese that was recently seen for the first time in Taiwan.
After the meeting that addressed three strains of bird flu recently affecting Taiwan (H5N2, H5N8, and the old strain of N5N2 that hit Pingtung in December), Chang told reporters that the subsidies should be distributed with farmers' best interests in mind.
Wang said that farmers will be reimbursed for any and all chickens, ducks and geese that were culled by order of the COA. Wang stated that the market rate farmers will be quoted per bird will be determined in a near future meeting of the COA. Chang was also unable to give any information about the rates at which farmers are to be subsidized.
2 Percent of Waterfowl Infected: BAPHIQ
COA Research Institute chief Tsai Hsiang-rong stated that waterfowl can generally catch forms of bird flu, but do not have the tendency to be contagious. According to an overseas survey conducted on wild and domesticated birds, H5N1 was the first strain of fatal bird flu that targeted waterfowl, while H5N8 is the second. Tsai stated that the COA still has no way of knowing how the epidemic will progress, but several comprehensive reports will be released within the next few days, shedding more light on the severity of the epidemic.
COA chief Chen Bao-chi said that yesterday the council sent a new chicken sample from a farm in Tainan and had it tested for H5N2. Chen said there is a possibility that the chicken was infected with the old strain of H5N2 found in Pingtung, but the test results have still not been released. Chen gave a reminder that the scale of waterfowl husbandry is relatively small compared to chickens. Therefore, the food industry would not be as affected if waterfowl production dropped, whereas a mass culling of chickens would have a dramatic effect.
BAPHIQ chief Chang Shu-hsien released the council's statistics yesterday, indicating that more than 2.5 million, or approximately 2 per cent of waterfowl in Taiwan, are infected with bird flu. The report showed that samples were taken from 65 different farms in Taiwan.