Swine fever delivers devastation to hog farms in China

China 24

An outbreak of the swine fever has decimated pig farms across China. That, on top of the U.S.-China trade war, has some farmers wondering if they can recover.

CGTN’s Frances Kuo reports.

Sun Dawu has spent 30 years as a farmer. He’s now suffering his greatest hardship – losing thousands of precious pigs.

“15,000 pigs have died, and in this period we have had to continuously do tests,” Sun said. “Those working in the farms don’t gain much and can’t sell. They can only kill them. This is painful.”

African Swine Fever spread to his farm in Hebei Province outside Beijing, destroying much of his herd.

In China overall, estimates said the outbreak has caused a 40 percent plunge in the pig population since last year. Sun believes the numbers could be higher.

“Because you can’t diagnose to confirm, and some (farmers) are reluctant to declare,” said Sun. “So there are some people who quietly sell dead pigs.”

Pork prices have skyrocketed about 50% from a year ago. That blow goes beyond the farm. China is the largest pork consumer in the world, and pork is a staple in many Chinese dishes.

Beijing is trying to ease the pain by providing breeders thousands of dollars in subsidies to help boost production.

But some farmers are reluctant, fearing a new herd could catch the highly contagious virus. The government has also dipped into an emergency stockpile of frozen pork reserves to help fill the supply gap.

The trade war isn’t helping – imports of U.S. agricultural products into China are now pricier.

But there is hope. China’s Agricultural Ministry reported inventories are on the rebound and predicted the dip in China’s hog numbers will bottom out by year’s end.

As for Sun, he’s restocked his herd, and it’s healthy for now. Hebei Province was declared free of swine fever in April.

But Sun’s livestock is quarantined, and he can’t sell the pigs until at least the second half of next year. He said running a large business has helped him absorb the loss, but others may not be so fortunate.

“Right now, farmers are afraid, they don’t dare raise pigs, there’s no way for them to,” said Sun. “There’s no vaccine to prevent swine fever so farmers trying to recover are failing. Everyone’s scared.”

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