Taipei, March 4 (CNA) The Council of Agriculture said Wednesday that with effect from September, it will be mandatory for poultry to be raised in enclosed spaces, as part of an effort to stop the spread of an avian flu virus that has decimated Taiwan's poultry farms.
The regulation is being imposed to prevent contact with migratory birds, which will begin arriving in Taiwan in September, said Chang Su-san (張淑賢), director-general of the COA's Bureau of Animal and Plant Health Inspection and Quarantine (BAPHIQ).
The agricultural industry must adopt more modern techniques, such as the use of enclosed facilities on poultry farms, to stop the spread of the bird flu virus, Chang said.
Poultry farmers will be given a six-month grace period to comply with the new regulation, after which they will be subject to a fine of between NT$30,000 and NT$150,000 (US$853-4,266) that will be imposed by the local governments, she said.
The COA will offer farmers loans at a concessionary interest rate of 1.5 percent to build the enclosures, Chang said.
As of Tuesday, four more poultry farms had been confirmed as infected with bird flu, bringing the total number islandwide to 860 since the outbreak began in mid-January, according to BAPHIQ statistics.
About 4.17 million birds -- chicken, geese and ducks - have been culled on 853 poultry farms, the data showed.
So far, 886 poultry farms around Taiwan have been tested for bird flu, according to BAPHIQ data.
Since the outbreak began, the COA has imposed restrictions on the movement of birds on infected farms and has mandated that the farms must be disinfected after culling is completed. Farms within three kilometers of outbreak sites will be under surveillance for 3 months, according to the COA's regulations.
Chang said the most recent regulation is part of the effort to more effectively contain the spread of the disease.
She said the COA is also considering revising the poultry farm registration system to mandate the registration of poultry farms that have at least 500 birds, instead of the minimum 3,000 at present.