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China Acts to Boost Pig Supply, Control Pork Prices
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China's Ministry of Agriculture dispatched another 20 inspection teams to the country's 60 pig production bases on Monday in a bid to curb the spreading of blue-ear disease and ensure the pig supply to stabilize the pork prices.

Pork prices have continued to rise despite the government's efforts to encourage pig breeding with subsidies, after the pork supply was strained by the recent culling of pigs due to the outbreak of the disease.

The wholesale price of pork in China surged 74.6 percent in June compared with the same month last year.

Meanwhile, 39,455 pigs or 27.5 percent of the pigs that contracted blue ear disease in 586 epidemic areas, had died by July 10.

Many farmers have become reluctant to raise pigs for fear they might be struck by the outbreak.

The government had already been directly subsidizing pig breeders and providing insurance for female pigs against illness and natural disasters.

Agriculture Minister Sun Zhengcai said the inspection teams, which now total 30, would identify the actual number of live pigs, especially females, and learn about difficulties in breeding from farmers.

Sun said the information collected by the inspection teams would be used in drafting further supportive policies.

They would explain the government's preferential policies to pig breeders to boost their confidence, he said.

The inspection teams would also focus on the monitoring and the prevention of the blue-ear disease and foot-and-mouth disease, said Sun.

Blue-ear pig disease remains a severe challenge to China's Yangtze River valley despite the fact that the outbreak had been basically brought under control on the whole.

Rising costs for feed and a periodic shortage of pigs due to a fall in pork prices in the first half of 2006 that prompted breeders to slaughter their sows and piglets to avoid further losses have also been blamed for price hikes.

Experts said prices would continue to rise in the second half as the supply shortfall would take a while to ease.

"Normally it takes half a year to complete a breeding cycle and make more pork available in the markets. That's why it's so difficult to turn around supply and demand," said Huang Hai, Assistant Minister of Commerce.

Sun said the production of live pigs was the top priority of the agriculture ministry.

(Xinhua News Agency July 24 2007)

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