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S. Korea set to adopt livestock permit system

All Headlines 11:35 May 06, 2011

SEOUL, May 6 (Yonhap) -- South Korea will introduce a livestock permit system starting next year to better regulate the local agricultural sector plagued by frequent outbreaks of animal diseases, the government said Friday.

The livestock industry development plan also calls for placing greater responsibility on individual farmers to prevent outbreaks and penalizing those failing to follow animal protection rules, the Ministry for Food, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries said.

Large corporate farms should get permits by 2012 with the system to be expanded to include all small-scale farms raising cattle, pigs, chicken and ducks by 2015. Farms engaged in animal breeding and chick hatching should also get permits next year regardless of the number of animals raised.

Currently, South Korea has an estimated 8,600 corporate farms, accounting for 4.4 percent of the livestock growers in the country. These farms raise more than 100 heads of cows, at least 2,000 pigs, and between 10,000 to 50,000 chickens and ducks. The number of small-scale farms tops 81,000.

The move comes as Seoul has struggled to cope with the spread of foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) and was compelled to cull a record 3.47 million heads of pigs and cattle from late November at a cost of more than 3 trillion won (US$2.7 billion). South Korea had to use vaccines to stem outbreaks that increased overall costs.

The latest FMD outbreaks that affected most of the country was further exacerbated by sporadic confirmations of virulent bird flu cases that cost Seoul another 70 billion won with 6.4 million birds being destroyed since late last year.

"To reduce the falloff of adopting the new system, the government will allow a grace period of one-year for existing livestock farmers, although all new farms must adhere to the rules from the outset," Farm Minister Yoo Jeong-bok said.

He said violators can lose their livestock permits, pay fines up to 30 million won, or face jail terms of less than three years in the case of serious criminal negligence.

Farmers will also be required to take full responsibility for the hiring and decontamination of foreign laborers hired to take care of animals, while unauthorized disposal of animal waste could result in immediate revoking of permits, the official said.

The farm ministry has been pushing for changes after many recent FMD and bird flu outbreaks have been blamed on farmers not doing their part to decontaminate themselves, employees and animals.

In the future, both farmers and local governments will be required to play more of a role in handling animal disease outbreaks, he said, adding local governments will be required to pay 20 percent of compensation paid for animals culled with the rest to come from the central government.

Besides such measures, the ministry said that while it plans to maintain the current "yellow" alert level for FMD, it will immediately issue a "red" alert if outbreaks involving different types of viruses are found in the country.

A red alert is the highest on the four-tiered alert systems that rises from "blue" to "yellow" when there is a slight threat and to "orange" when an outbreak is spreading across the country.

yonngong@yna.co.kr
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