African swine fever reaches China’s pork loving southern region
- Prices set to rise as pork production gears up for Lunar New Year demand
- Thousands of pigs culled within hours in Yunnan province
China’s pig industry has been dealt a further blow with the first cases of African swine fever reported in the country’s major pork-consuming region in the south.
Two cases in the three-month old outbreak of the highly contagious disease were reported in southwest Yunnan province on Sunday, just as China enters its peak pig production period ahead of its most important festival, the New Year holiday, which this year occurs in early February 2019.
“The thing we worried about the most has now happened,” said Feng Yonghui, chief analyst at industry portal Soozhu.com, referring to the spread of disease from northeast to southwest.
China has reported more than 40 outbreaks of the disease in 11 provinces and municipalities, resulting in the culling of an estimated 200,000 pigs.
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All outbreaks had occurred in the north and eastern provinces, until now. The latest cases, first reported by the official broadcaster CCTV, were on two small farms in Zhaotong, a city in the northeast of Yunnan province.
A total of 545 pigs had already died on the two farms when the disease was confirmed.
Almost 7,000 pigs in the 3km area (1.8 miles) around the farms were due to be culled by midday on Monday, according to the website of state media Yunnan Daily.
The agriculture ministry warned on Friday that pig prices were set to rise ahead of the New Year holiday as outbreaks of African swine fever hit supply.
New cases in the southwest could have a major impact, warned Feng, as people in the region are among the country’s top consumers of pork.
“In the southwest, everyone eats pork, no matter what their income level is,” he said.
“Probably pork prices there will go up, as consumption will remain high but a ban on transportation of pigs from neighbouring provinces is likely to reduce supplies.”
Zhaotong, scene of the latest outbreak, is almost 3,000km (1,865 miles) from Shenyang where the first incidence was reported in early August, but many northern producers truck pigs long distances to meet demand in the south.