With Spring Festival approaching, local authorities must take steps to ensure a sufficient supply of pork while maintaining their efforts against African swine fever, a senior agricultural official said.
Agricultural authorities at various levels must ensure that the production of pork is stable and that transport of live pigs and pork between regions is orderly, Han Changfu, minister of agriculture and rural affairs, said during a video conference on Tuesday.
While African swine fever has generally been kept under control, and the pork market remains stable, strong efforts must continue to ensure that disease control and prevention measures are carried out, including effectively handling any new outbreak and improving supervision of pig farms, he said.
Wang Bin, deputy chief for market operations at the Ministry of Commerce, said the ministry released 9,600 metric tons of frozen reserve pork into the market on Jan 10, and has guided local governments to release more to ensure availability to consumers.
Spring Festival, the beginning of the new year according to the Chinese lunar calendar, is the most important festival in China and also a peak season for food consumption. The seven-day holiday starts on Monday.
The Ministry of Commerce has also instructed local authorities to make emergency plans to protect the supply of other agricultural products, such as fruits and vegetables, to minimize risks in case of unfavorable weather conditions, Wang said.
China reported its first African swine fever outbreak in Shenyang, Liaoning province, in August.
By Jan 14, outbreaks had been reported in 24 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities on the mainland, and 916,000 pigs were slaughtered to prevent the spread of the disease, according to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs. The disease does not affect humans but kills virtually all pigs that contract it.
The ministry has taken a number of steps for disease control and prevention since August, including restricting movement of pigs between regions, banning the feeding of pigs with kitchen leftovers and encouraging transport of frozen pork rather than live pigs, to reduce chances of infection.
Zhu Zengyong, an analyst at the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, said restricting the transport of pigs has resulted in a reduced supply of pork over the past months in some areas of southern China that traditionally rely on pigs imported from other regions. That may cause price hikes ahead of Spring Festival, Zhu said.
Because of the outbreaks of African swine fever, the number of pigs raised in China decreased by 4.8 percent in December from levels the year before, which suggests that the supply of pork will likely be tight in the second half of this year, said Tang Ke, a market regulator at the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs, speaking at a news conference earlier this month.
"We suggest pig farmers increase their stock while guarding against African swine fever, to increase their profits this year," he said.