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China’s sow herd rose 2.2 per cent in December compared with November, according to the government. Photo: Reuters

Lunar New Year in China raises risks of worsening African swine fever crisis, minister says

  • Vice-agriculture minister Yu Kangzhen said on Wednesday that China’s sow herd rose 2.2 per cent in December compared with November
  • The Lunar New Year, China’s peak pork consuming season, falls on January 25 as million of people return home to celebrate the festival with their families

China’s race to boost pork supplies by increasing hog breeding has raised the risks of worsening the African swine fever crisis, the government said on Wednesday.

The African swine fever situation “is still severe and complex,” vice-agriculture minister Yu Kangzhen said in Beijing. “The risk of outbreaks will rise with the rapid increase in the number of live hogs.”

The rare show of candour by the Chinese government on a disease that has roiled the industry follows months of comments tamping down speculation that the situation was out of control.

It also affirms concerns that restocking herds when the disease is endemic could further delay a recovery.

[The African swine fever situation] is still severe and complex. The risk of outbreaks will rise with the rapid increase in the number of live hogs
Yu Kangzhen

According to Yu, China’s sow herd rose 2.2 per cent in December compared with November.

China’s sow herd declined by about 40 per cent after the deadly disease African swine fever killed millions of pigs and prevented many farmers from restocking farms.

Yu did not reveal December data on live hogs, but said that the number of pigs sent for slaughter rose by 14.1 per cent from a month earlier, as farmers liquidated their herds ahead of the Lunar New Year festival later this month. Farmers typically fatten up their pigs for slaughter before the holiday, when pork is in high demand.


Winter and spring is the high season for animal diseases including swine fever, and “the risk of spreading the virus will rise greatly” with more live pigs and pork products being distributed nationwide before Lunar New Year, Yu said.

The Lunar New Year, China’s country’s peak pork consuming season, falls on January 25.

Despite the rise in the sow herd, Yu said preventing outbreaks of African swine fever remained a complex task and was the biggest risk to the herd’s recovery.

While the number of confirmed outbreaks has declined, the virus has spread countrywide and Yu said the chance of fresh outbreaks would increase with growing pig numbers and colder weather that freezes water and makes washing and disinfection more challenging.


“Outbreaks will continue to occur in China,” he said.

Outbreaks will continue to occur in China
Yu Kangzhen

The government is adjusting its treatment plan for swine fever, including holding training sessions for farmers on prevention, in an effort to stop a rebound of the virus, Yu added.

In November, a 110.2 per cent increase in the price of pork from a year earlier led to a further rise in China’s consumer prices.
The consumer price index (CPI) rose to 4.5 per cent from a year earlier, up from a 3.8 per cent gain in October, the highest reading since reaching the same level in January 2012, according to the National Bureau of Statistics.
A notice on the website of the China Merchandise Reserve Management Centre on Monday said that China would release 20,000 tonnes of frozen pork from its state reserves on Thursday.

Beijing has already released more than 100,000 tonnes of frozen pork from state reserves since last month to shore up supplies after the deadly African swine fever devastated the country’s pig herd.

China has also been boosting production of other meats to help meet any shortfall. Poultry meat output rose by about 3 million tonnes, or about 15 per cent, in 2019, according to Yang Zhenhai, director of the ministry’s animal husbandry and veterinary bureau.

Additional reporting by Reuters

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