The Chinese government has urged localities to be on the alert
for possible animal epidemics as the snow disaster may have so
weakened livestock that they may be vulnerable to epidemics like
avian influenza and blue-ear pig disease.
"Livestock are vulnerable to epidemic diseases after severe
weather like torrential rains, blizzard and deep freeze," warned a
State Council circular from the disaster relief and emergency
command center, ordering all breeding farms in snow-hit central,
southern and eastern China to sterilize livestock pens.
Farmers should carefully examine their breeding facilities,
clean up snow and reinforce damaged pens to secure proper indoor
temperatures for livestock. Dead poultry and domesticated animals
must be subject to harmless treatment and be banned from the
market, it said.
No epidemics have been reported yet. But the command center has
ordered relevant departments to keep a close eye on hidden dangers
that might jeopardize the safety of poultry and livestock
A total of 19 provinces and autonomous regions have been
seriously hit by snow, the worst in five decades, and even in a
century in few areas, since Jan. 10. When the deep freeze took most
Chinese off guard. The stock-breeding industry also reported
drastic losses. In Baoji City of northwestern Shaanxi Province
alone, nearly 20,000 cow, sheep and pigs have been frozen to death
after 200 livestock pens were weighed down and destroyed by ice as
much as 6 cm thick.
Another 9,548 mu (636 hectares) of land under vegetable
production and 5,000 mu (333 hectares) of fruit trees were
In the southwestern province of Guizhou, the snow cost farmers
4.348 billion yuan (604 million U.S. dollars) in direct economic
losses while livestock breeders lost another 243 million yuan (33.8
million U.S. dollars).
No national figures on the losses of agriculture and livestock
are available. By Feb. 1, China has lost 53.8 billion yuan (7.5
billion U.S. dollars) to the heavy snow, according to the Ministry
of Civil Affairs.
After debriefing the reports of eight work teams on the damages
and disaster relief in the agricultural sector on Thursday night,
the command center has urged the Ministry of Agriculture and local
agricultural departments to take post-disaster production as their
"most pressing task".
Most of the worst-hit regions, Hunan, Hubei, Guizhou provinces
and the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, provide fresh vegetable
during the annual off-season between April and May. The unexpected
disaster therefore has aggravated the pressure on the year's
vegetable supply, noted the command center.
In some areas, power outage coupled with water constraints has
made it difficult for farmers to restore and repair plastic
greenhouses, livestock pens and fish ponds. Road closings also
hindered the transport of farm produce and triggered feed shortages
for breeding farms.
Imminent difficulties facing the agricultural and stock-breeding
industries are capital and labor constraints, it said.
Quite a number of villages and households that rely on bank
loans for stock-breeding found themselves insolvent overnight or
financial strained for reinvestment. Moreover, youngsters who
migrated into cities to work couldn't rush back in time to cope
with the disaster because of road and railway breakdowns.
To deal with the situation, the government has mobilized
agro-technicians and grass-root cadres to deliver door-to-door
services on post-disaster reconstruction. Free seeds, fish fry and
livestock have been available to farmers.
The Guizhou provincial government, which received a relief fund
of 19 million yuan (2.6 million U.S. dollars) from the Ministry of
Finance, had planned to use the money to buy diesel oil,
fertilizers, seeds and pesticides for farmers and subsidize
The Ministry of Agriculture was asked to closely track the price
fluctuations and well coordinate the supply and demand of farm
Triggered by the blue ear pig disease, the prices of pork almost
doubled last year and sparked an upward trend in the country's
consumer prices inflation which rose 4.8 percent in 2007 and hit an
11-year high of 6.9 percent in November, well above the government
target of 3 percent.
(Xinhua News Agency February 8, 2008)