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More Controls Pledged on Prices
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Senior officials yesterday pledged to take more macro-measures to rein in pork prices while ensuring a stable supply of meat and other staple foods.

The measures will include better disease-prevention efforts and large-scale breeding, said Zhou Wangjun, vice-director of the National Development and Reform Commission's price department.

For the first time, the authorities are mulling subsidy and insurance policies to facilitate the development of the breeding industry, and "the government will offer certain premiums to pig farmers in cases of major natural disasters and outbreaks of disease," he said.

Zhou made the remarks in an online interview with www.gov.cn. Officials from Ministry of Agriculture and Ministry of Commerce also took part.

The prices of pork and eggs have soared in the past few months.

Statistics from the Ministry of Agriculture suggest that in April, baby pigs were priced 71.3 percent higher than they were last year. Live pigs were priced 45.2 percent higher, and pork 29.3 percent higher.

Last month, the price of pork jumped another 26.3 percent to an average of 16.3 yuan per kilogram. The price fell by 0.3 percent in the first ten days this month.

Chen Weisheng, vice-director of the Ministry of Agriculture's husbandry and veterinary department, said the price hikes were the result of a marginal decline in the pig population this year.

An increase in the cost of animal feed last June had made farmers reluctant to raise pigs.

In addition, an outbreak of blue ear disease, also known as Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome (PRRS), caused nearly one million pig deaths and led to mass culling last year.

Tests for the disease and vaccines have been developed and delivered to local farmers this month, Chen added.

Zhou predicted that pork prices would level off because the supply had been "secured".

"Breeders are confident again thanks to the good prices and the effective control of epidemic diseases," he added.

Zhu Xiaoliang, a deputy-director of the Ministry of Commerce's market operations department, said the pork market is "normal" and that releasing supplies from the national pork reserves would be "unnecessary".

"The reserves are mainly used to cope with emergencies or huge amounts of consumption during major holidays," Zhu said.

For example, reserves were released during the SARS outbreak in 2003 and when snowstorms hit northeastern Liaoning Province this March.
(China Daily June 13, 2007)

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