The Council of Agriculture’s position on U.S. pork imports

  • Date: 2016-08-08

I. Background

Responding to the trend toward regional trade and economic liberalization, the previous administration addressed food import issues based on four principles: adopt safe tolerance levels, treat beef and pork separately, institute mandatory labeling requirements, and ban the import of organ meats. Applying those principles, the government amended the Act Governing Food Safety and Sanitation, setting the maximum residue level for the veterinary drug ractopamine in beef at 10 ppb (parts per billion). An amendment announced on September 7, 2012 also permitted beta-agonists (also known as leanness-enhancing agents, a class that includes ractopamine) to be used as a feed additive for cattle, but prohibited their use for pigs, other livestock or poultry.

 

Permission to use ractopamine in domestic cattle feed was granted on a provisional basis, however, pending the registration and approval of ractopamine pursuant to the Veterinary Drugs Control Act. The existing zero-tolerance policy for ractopamine in pork products was retained, thereby prohibiting the import of pork products with any trace of ractopamine.

 

Some pork producers have expressed concern that if Taiwan becomes a signatory to free-trade agreements promoting regional economic integration such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TTP), the government will come under pressure to open the domestic market to U.S. pork imports containing ractopamine. In response, the government has definitively stated that the domestic market will not be opened to U.S. pork containing ractopamine before conducting a comprehensive risk assessment backed with scientific evidence. Going forward, discussions will be held to guarantee food safety and protect the rights of pork producers, and no hasty decision will be made permitting imports of U.S. pork containing ractopamine.

 

 

II. The governments position 

Taiwanese consume about seven times more pork than beef, and also have an affinity for organ meats. There are thus many concerns about opening the domestic market to pork imports containing ractopamine. So in addition to its policy prohibiting the use of leanness-enhancing agents in domestic meat production, the current government will continue to foster sound sanitation and safety controls for animal products by strengthening industry self-management and the meat markets gatekeeper mechanism, and promoting a certification system.

 

A. Ensure food safety

Strictly enforce the Act Governing Food Safety and Sanitation and strengthen domestic animal husbandry industry monitoring.

 

B. Increase industry competitiveness, protect pig farmers’ rights

To address demands by the U.S. to import its pork containing ractopamine, facilitate TPP entry, and counter competition from other countries such as Canada, Spain and Denmark, the government will focus on policy measures to improve domestic pork industry competitiveness, product quality and product labeling; institute a traceability system for domestically produced fresh pork to give consumers, using a QR code and their mobile phone, access to information about the ranch and location where the meat was produced so they can clearly distinguish between domestic and imported pork; promote a modern, low-temperature distribution system for domestically produced fresh pork to give consumers high-quality, sanitary pork products; promote a “green energy pork industry” by linking biogas power generation with solar energy; require pig farms to implement strict foot-and-mouth disease vaccination programs; and increase the breeding rate. These measures will help foster an efficient, high-quality domestic pork industry that is both environmentally friendly and internationally competitive.

 

C. Assess risks, harmonize with international specifications, consider domestic consumption habits

The Council of Agriculture, Ministry of Economic Affairs and the Ministry of Health and Welfare are all involved in the ractopamine issue. Risk assessments will involve complex scientific methodologies across disciplines including livestock production and food safety, and require a high degree of technological integration and cross-department cooperation. Complete risk assessment reports and scientific evidence will be required before any discussion can take place about opening up the market to imports. An independent mechanism for conducting risk assessments will also be established, modeled after existing systems in the U.S., Japan and the European Union.

 

D. Establish a comprehensive real-time communication mechanism for producers, consumers and civic groups

Ninety percent of Taiwan’s demand for pork is met by domestic production, and in 2015 pork industry output value was NT$71.7 billion (approximately US$2.25 billion). That made pork the nation’s single most valuable agricultural product, so the government is very concerned about the impact that imported pork containing ractopamine may have on the domestic pork industry and consumer market, and will evaluate the situation carefully. If Taiwan becomes a signatory to the TPP or any other negotiated regional economic integration agreement the government will: seek to prolong any tariff reduction period; adopt flexible tariff, quota and special protective measures; and seek adaptive space for agricultural product industries. The government will also request that state parties to any agreement eliminate tariffs on livestock products, which will benefit Taiwan’s exports of livestock and processed livestock products while boosting farmers’ incomes.

 

III. Conclusion

In addressing the trend towards regional trade liberalization, the government will deal with U.S. pork containing ractopamine by prohibiting imports before a thorough risk assessment is conducted based on scientific evidence. The government will also hold discussions predicated on ensuring food safety and pork producers’ interests, and absolutely will not make any hasty decision regarding imports of U.S. pork containing ractopamine.