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China floods blamed for fresh ASF outbreaks

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REUTERS

BEIJING — Outbreaks of deadly African swine fever are surging in some parts of southern China following heavy rains, analysts and industry sources said, in what could be a big setback for Beijing’s goal of replenishing pork supplies.

China’s hog herd, by far the world’s largest, shrank last year by around 180 million pigs, or 40%, after the incurable disease decimated farms. Pig producers are building new farms and restocking amid the push to restore lost pork production and tame runaway meat prices.

But while African Swine Fever (ASF) outbreaks have declined, partly due to smaller herds and better hygiene, the disease remains an obstacle to herd recovery. ASF is typically fatal for pigs but does not affect people.

Heavy rains and flooding across China’s south since mid-June appear to have triggered fresh cases, hurting restocking efforts, said Zheng Lili, chief analyst with consultancy Shandong Yongyi.

A Shandong Yongyi survey of small pig farmers, corporate farmers, traders and slaughterhouses in 20 provinces revealed dozens of ASF cases had occurred since the heavy rains in Guangdong province, the Guangxi region and other areas.

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“Even the medium to large farms were hit,” said Zheng.

Farmers typically bury infected pigs, and the rains may have spread the disease via groundwater, analysts said.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs reported a dozen outbreaks of the fever in March and April, however, indicating it was spreading before the rains.

The last case reported by the ministry occurred in Yunnan on June 5. Many outbreaks, though, go unreported.

China’s agriculture ministry and the Guangdong government did not respond to faxes seeking comment on the disease’s resurgence. The Sichuan and Jiangxi governments could not be reached for immediate comment.

An official with the veterinary division under the agriculture bureau in Guangxi told Reuters by phone that they had not received any reports of ASFoutbreaks lately in the whole region, including Laibin.

Pig inventories in Guangxi in the first half of the year rose 1.12% from the previous year, according to government statistics, the official added. — Reuters

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