Taipei, June 16 (CNA) Taiwan and the offshore counties of Penghu and Matsu have been officially declared a foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) free zone where vaccination is not practiced, Taiwan's Council of Agriculture (COA) announced Tuesday.
The COA and President Tsai Ing-wen made the announcement via Facebook late Tuesday, saying the decision was approved by the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE).
COA head Chen Chi-chung confirmed the news to a CNA reporter.
The declaration is expected to facilitate the resumption of fresh pork exports from Taiwan after a 24-year hiatus.
The COA will not let down its guard as it works to prevent the spread of FMD and African swine fever in the country, said Chen, who added that Taiwan hopes to resume exports of fresh pork products later this year.
"Beginning now, Taiwan can finally resume pork exports and Taiwan's pork can regain its place on the world stage," President Tsai wrote on her Facebook page.
The outlying island of Kinmen remains a FMD-free zone where vaccination is practiced.
Taiwan's pig farming industry had export sales of NT$60 billion (US$2 billion) in 1996, but was hit hard by an FMD outbreak in 1997 which triggered a ban on exports of fresh pork products, according to the COA.
A few months after the outbreak, Taiwan began FMD vaccination and the country gained the status of an FMD-free country where vaccination is practiced in 2003.
In 2009, Taiwan's government tried to end the FMD vaccination program in an attempt to qualify for non-vaccination status, but that effort failed after seven FMD cases were reported in the country that year.
Taiwan, Penghu and Matsu saw their last FMD case in 2013 and regained FMD-free status with vaccination in August 2017, while an outbreak in Kinmen occurred in 2015, resulting in the county only regaining its status in May 2018.
On July 1, 2018, Taiwan started a program to terminate FMD inoculation in the country, with the exception of Kinmen, and after a full year of no infections reported, it applied in 2019 to the OIE for FMD-free status.
According to the OIE, FMD is a severe, highly contagious viral disease of livestock that has a significant economic impact. The disease affects cattle, swine, sheep, goats and other cloven-hoofed ruminants.
A total of 5.51 million swine are currently raised in Taiwan and pig farming was valued at NT$70.9 billion in 2019, according to COA data.
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