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Food and agriculture

China steps up transport ban to stem spread of African swine fever

Price turmoil expected to worsen for world’s largest pork consumer

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 12 September, 2018, 7:48pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 12 September, 2018, 8:08pm

China has banned the transport of live hogs and pig products from 10 regions bordering the six provinces that have reported African swine fever outbreaks in recent weeks.

The move will further tighten supplies and add to price turmoil for the world’s top pork consumer, with the affected areas together accounting for around one-third of China’s hog supply.

Live markets will also be shut in the regions, according to a notice by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs dated September 11 and sent to animal disease control centres in the areas.

Two government agencies that received the notice have confirmed its authenticity.

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The affected areas include the provinces of Hebei, Shanxi, Jilin, Fujian, Jiangxi, Shandong, Hubei and Shaanxi as well as the Inner Mongolia autonomous region and the city of Shanghai.

African swine fever is a highly contagious disease that cannot be cured and has no vaccine. It can also be transmitted in pork products, animal feed or by people.

Beijing had already stopped transport of live hogs in the six provinces that have reported outbreaks. That includes Liaoning in the northeast, which is estimated to export about 20 per cent of its pigs each year to the south.

The move has pushed prices down in the north as hog supplies accumulate because of the transport ban, while sending prices soaring in some southern regions.

The 10 areas under the new ban accounted for a combined 217 million hogs in 2016, around one-third of the country’s total, according to official statistics.

Hubei and Jiangxi provinces are major exporters of pigs, said a note from Changjiang Securities, and would likely see prices fall. Importing provinces such as Guangdong and Zhejiang will face further rises in prices, it said.

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Prices for live hogs in Zhejiang were 18.51 yuan (US$2.70) per kg last week, well above the national average of 14.38 yuan, according to data collected by consultancy China-America Commodity Data Analytics.

Prices in Liaoning, meanwhile, fell to less than 12 yuan per kg, China-America reported.

Beijing’s measures are expected to take a major toll on small farmers who sell their animals to live markets, said an official at the Fujian Provincial Animal Husbandry and Veterinary Society, who only gave his surname of Huang.

“Though prices [in Fujian] are up, the live markets are shut and there’s a ban on transportation so there will be no market for the farmers,” he said.

The tough new measures risk incentivising the illegal movement of pigs as farmers and traders struggle to maintain their livelihoods, said an animal health expert at a large pig producer who was not authorised to talk to the media.