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China's Sichuan province becomes 18th to report African swine fever

BEIJING: China's agricultural ministry confirmed on Friday (Nov 16) the first outbreak of deadly African swine fever in the southwest province of Sichuan, the country's top pig-producing region, raising the likelihood of a major impact to pork supplies in coming months.

The highly contagious disease was discovered on a farm of 40 pigs in Yibin city, in Sichuan's southeast, making it the 18th province or municipality to report an outbreak of African swine fever since it was first detected in China in early August.

"With the new case in Sichuan, all major pig production provinces have now fallen. The situation is very severe," said Yao Guiling, an analyst with consultancy China-America Commodity Data Analytics.

China is the world's top pork producer and slaughters around 700 million pigs a year. Sichuan produced almost 66 million last year, according to official data, more than any other province.

Sichuan is also the province with the highest per capita consumption of pork in China at 36 kg (79 pounds), according to data from the National Statistics Bureau.

Provincial authorities last week in Sichuan issued a ban on the import of all live hogs and hog products from other regions in a bid to keep the disease out.

But Yibin is close to Sichuan's borders with Chongqing municipality and Guizhou province, both of which have already reported outbreaks.

Pig prices in Chengdu, capital of Sichuan, are currently the highest in the country, thanks to strong local demand and a bump-up after the disease infected nearby provinces.

Prices fell by 0.2 yuan on Friday, though, from a day earlier to 17.7 yuan (US$2.55) per kg, according to data collected by China-America Commodity Analytics.

The discovery of African swine fever in Sichuan comes less than three months ahead of Lunar New Year celebrations in early February that mark China's peak demand period for pork.

There is no cure and no vaccine for the disease, and the virus can survive for weeks in pork and animal feed.

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