BEIJING, May 28 (Reuters) - China's biggest hog producer Wens Foodstuffs Group Co Ltd built nine new pig farms in the first quarter and has dozens more under construction, the company's honorary chairman said, as it aims to triple output over the next four years.
Like other major producers, Wens is pouring billions of yuan into new pig farms, aiming to seize market share as the sector rebuilds after disease wiped out about 60% of the country's hog herd last year.
The new farms were completed despite the COVID-19 epidemic, which peaked in China early this year, slowing construction in many regions as workers stayed at home to prevent the spread of the virus, Wen Pengcheng said in an emailed response to questions from Reuters.
Wen, who is also a delegate to China's parliament, which held its annual gathering in Beijing this week, said the company wants to raise 56 million hogs by 2024.
Wens was hit hard by African swine fever, a deadly pig disease for which there is no cure and no vaccine.
Its hog sales fell 17% in 2019 to 18.5 million animals, and plunged 62% in the first quarter of this year, after it bred fewer piglets in the second half of 2019, according to company filings.
The recently completed farms will produce 1.2 million pigs a year, and another 79 projects with capacity to produce 7.75 million pigs and 260 million chickens a year are under construction, Wen said.
African swine fever is still the biggest challenge for the recovery of the country's hog production, he added.
The company has also set up a new waterfowl division, which will become its third-largest business after pigs and chickens, said Wen.
(Reporting by Dominique Patton; editing by Richard Pullin)