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Heavier fines to be imposed on meat smuggled into Taiwan

2018/12/17 18:40:26

CNA file photo

Taipei, Dec. 17 (CNA) The Council of Agriculture (COA) has announced stiffer fines on people smuggling meat into Taiwan to prevent African swine fever (ASF) from being spread inside the country.

The new higher fines, to take effect Tuesday, will be raised to NT$200,000 (US$6,485) for first-time offenders and to NT$1 million for second time offenders, said COA deputy chief Huang Chin-cheng (黃金城) on Monday.

The fines apply to people smuggling meat into Taiwan from areas affected by the ASF virus over the past three years, including China, Hong Kong, Macau, Russia and some European countries, Huang said.

The decision was made because of the rapid rise in the number of smuggled meat cases discovered in Taiwan over the past few days after already stiffer fines came into force Dec. 14, according to Huang.

Seventeen travelers were caught attempting to bring meat products into Taiwan between 4 p.m. Saturday and 4 p.m. Sunday, including 10 cases involving meat from China, according to data released Sunday by the COA's Bureau of Animal and Plant Health Inspection and Quarantine (BAPHIQ).

A total of 41 such cases were reported over the past three days, much higher than in previous days, the bureau said, but it did not provide specific data for earlier periods or explain why the number of cases was on the rise.

Concluding that the situation was not improving, the COA decided Monday to increase the minimum fine for meat smuggling from NT$50,000 to NT$200,000 to help protect Taiwan's pig farming sector, worth NT$70 billion a year, from the ASF threat, Huang said.

The Legislature amended the Statute for Prevention and Control of Infectious Animal Disease in November to increase the fines for meat or animal smuggling, which took effect on Dec. 14.

Based on the amendment's provisions, the COA decided to impose a fine of NT$50,000 on people smuggling meat or live animals into Taiwan from ASF-affected areas for the first time, while fines of NT$500,000 and NT$1 million were imposed on second- and third-time offenders, respectively.

Those higher fines did not prove much of a deterrent over the past three days, however, leading the government to increase the fines further, Huang said.

In another step to keep the ASF virus out of Taiwan, Premier Lai Ching-te (賴清德) on Monday directed the COA to set up a central epidemic command center for ASF, according to Cabinet deputy spokesman Ting Yun-kung (丁允恭).

Ting said Lai will host the center's first meeting Tuesday.

The premier is also scheduled to preside over a national drill on ASF prevention and control on Dec. 26, according to Huang.

Also Monday, President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) called the spread of ASF a national security issue and asked the public not to bring meat products into the country to protect Taiwan's pig farming industry, Presidential Office spokesman Alex Huang (黃重諺) said.

(By Wu Hsin-yun, Elaine Hou, Lu Hsin-hui and Evelyn Kao)