China Urges Pig Farms to Restock Despite African Swine Fever Fears 

China’s government officials are asking pig farmers to quickly replenish their herds in the wake of African swine fever (ASF) outbreaks. The nation plans to buy more pork for its reserves in an effort to curb price rises expected later this year.

Reuters reported that pork prices in China are “very likely” to rise in the second-half of 2019 as the number of pigs available for slaughter has been falling, said Tang Ke, director of the market and information department at the agriculture ministry.

“We recommend most farmers adjust their production and increase replenishment in a timely manner,” said Tang, even as they carry out steps to prevent and control ASF.

Although Tang said the ASF crisis has not yet hit national pork prices and supplies are currently “sufficient,” he described the battle against the disease as a “long-term and protracted war.”

Tang expects no major volatility in pork prices ahead of the Lunar New Year holiday that begins in early February – a time when pork is widely consumed in China.

Still, measures to control the spread of ASF have kept live pig prices in some regions of the country at loss-making levels, leading to liquidation by small farmers and slow restocking.

Tang said the national pig stocks in December were almost 5% lower than the previous year, while breeding sow numbers were down by more than 8%. 

The average weight of pigs in China was at a record of around 273 lb. in December, Tang said.

For now, live pig prices remain low, and might even be slightly weaker as the Lunar New Year approaches, Tang said. The average price of live pigs in the second week of January was 13.65 yuan ($2.02) per kg, down 1.6% from the previous week, and has dropped for four consecutive weeks, he added.

Pork prices have also declined in the last week by 0.9% to 23.55 yuan per kg, and are down almost 8% versus last year, Reuters reported.

“The volumes of pork traded at monitored farmers’ markets has dropped by 14.%, consumer demand is weakening,” Tang said.

China plans to use its reserves to help stabilize the market, Tang said, reducing the large gap in prices between producing and consuming regions.

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