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China economy

African swine fever hits two more Chinese provinces

  • Total number of provinces affected now 22 just weeks ahead of peak demand at Lunar New Year
  • Government says there will be plenty of pork to celebrate the arrival of the Year of the Pig
PUBLISHED : Sunday, 16 December, 2018, 5:50pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 16 December, 2018, 6:09pm

The deadly African swine fever virus is continuing to spread through China, with the total number of affected provinces rising to 22, but fears that pork will be in short supply when the country welcomes the Year of the Pig in February are being downplayed.

As of Friday, two more provinces had been affected, according to a report by state broadcaster CCTV, on top of the 20 which had reported virus outbreaks as of three weeks ago.

The report did not name the two new provinces, but one of them has been confirmed as Qinghai.

According to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs on Wednesday, there have been recent outbreaks in Sichuan in the southwest – which has previously been affected – and Qinghai in northwestern China.

The Qinghai outbreak affected 69 pigs and is believed to be the first case in the high-altitude province, according to the United Nations.

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“The current African swine fever outbreak in the country is being found in scattered spots, it is not pandemic. The epidemic is generally under control,” said Feng Zhongwu, from the ministry’s animal husbandry and veterinary department.

The epidemic of the highly contagious disease, which cannot yet be transmitted to humans, was classified as “generally under control” by the ministry in September, when the outbreak was confined to only five provinces.

Yet the virus has continued to spread, even to major cities including Beijing and Shanghai.

The ministry banned the feeding of pigs with kitchen waste at the end of August, when the first case was found in Liaoning province in northeastern China. Other efforts to contain the outbreak include culling more than half a million animals and banning the transport of live pigs from affected areas.

Despite that effort, a total of 87 outbreaks have been reported on farms and two outbreaks have been reported among wild boars in 22 provinces across the nation.

The latest discovery comes less than three months ahead of the Lunar New Year celebrations in early February – which this year will welcome the Year of the Pig – that marks China’s peak demand period for pork, but Feng sought to ease public concerns.

“Our national production of pig is 680 million, therefore, there will be no impact on the supply for the two festivals [January 1 and Lunar New Year],” he said.

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There is no cure and no vaccine for the disease, and the virus can survive for weeks in pork and animal feed. The only known control method is to cull animals.

Swine fever has already caused a spike in pork prices in China and fuelled growing fears of a major and prolonged impact on the world’s largest pork producer.

The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation warned in August that the disease could spread to other parts of Asia.

While African swine fever is not harmful to humans it causes deadly haemorrhagic fever in domesticated pigs and wild boars.