The swine flu outbreak has had only a limited impact on the mainland's growth, but a prolonged outbreak could hinder the recovery of the flagging economy, economists say 'Only a prolonged outbreak would have material and sustained economic consequences, beyond mere short-term interruptions of certain business activities as currently observed,' said Sun Mingchun, chief China economist with Nomura. Mr Sun said the company has not considered revising its forecast of mainland economic growth for this year because it sees the swine flu outbreak having limited impact on the world's third-largest economy. The most immediate - but limited - impact would be on the travel industry and pork sales because 'there would be fewer international visitors coming to China and fewer Chinese people going to foreign countries affected by the epidemic disease during upcoming Labour Day holiday, and also fewer people consuming pork,' said Yi Xianrong , an economist with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, a government think-tank. As the swine flu outbreak had become a global concern, Professor Yi said that it would make recovery more complicated and difficult, affecting almost all business sectors. 'An outbreak on the scale of Sars would shake the financial, property and investment markets, hurt consumption spending, and add to business challenges across almost all business sectors,' he said. Mr Sun said the most severe impact of a wider swine flu outbreak would be the added inflationary pressure on the economy because it would hinder the production and sales of pork, a Chinese staple food. Rising prices of pork in 2007 contributed to decade-high inflation. Economists remember well the financial damage the Sars outbreak inflicted on the mainland economy in 2003. They warned that an epidemic of that scale or greater could inflict severe damage on an economy that is already troubled. The mainland economy grew at its record slowest pace - 6.1 per cent - in the first quarter, down from 9 per cent last year, as the global downturn hit mainland exports. The recent outbreak of swine flu in Mexico and its rapid spread to other countries could interrupt trade and investment, exacerbating the worldwide recession for an uncertain period, Moody'sEconomy.com said. It said that in Asia the spectre of a pandemic had already revived painful memories of Sars, which originated in China in late 2002 and took a heavy toll on its economy in the first half of 2003. 'Yet, the lessons learned during the Sars outbreak may help China better prevent an outbreak,' Professor Yi said. Moody'sEconomy.com said that although Sars reached as far as Canada, the places hit hardest were the mainland, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Singapore. Moody's said Beijing was blamed for letting the disease grow out of control because the government concealed information from the public, limited media coverage and delayed reporting it to the World Health Organisation. Professor Yi said Beijing has gained more experience from handing Sars and was in a better position to prevent the outbreak and limit its negative impact on the economy. 'The chance of a Sars-like outbreak of swine flu on the mainland is very small.'