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Blue-ear Infections Down 51% in July
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The Ministry of Agriculture (MOA) said yesterday that 47,000 pigs in China were infected by blue-ear disease in July, down 51.5 percent from the previous month.

Ministry spokesperson Xue Liang told a press briefing that of the total, 13,000 animals had died (down 35.9 percent) but it was not certain they had all died of blue ear.

The epidemic, which has been partly responsible for pushing up pork prices nationwide, "has been closely controlled," Xue said.

Over the past year, blue-ear disease had spread to 26 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities, especially in the Yangtze River region, killing 68,000 pigs and prompting officials to destroy a further 175,000.

Li Jinxiang, an official with the MOA's veterinary bureau, said although the disease was widespread, its prevalence varied from region to region. For example, just 826 of the country's 650,000 villages had identified traces of the virus, he said, and each of them had set up an appropriate quarantine system.

As of Wednesday, authorities had administered 314 million ml of vaccine to immunize more than 100 million pigs, a fifth of the nation's total. The vaccine has proven safe, effective and up-to-standard, Yu Kangzhen, chief of the ministry's veterinary drug inspection institute, said.

The highly pathogenic disease, also known as porcine reproductive and respiratory sndrome, was introduced to China in 1996.

Although it can be fatal for pigs, once the animals are vaccinated they are immune for life, the MOA said.

In a related development, the Ministry of Commerce said yesterday that the average wholesale price of pork between August 13 and 19 fell 1.4 percent week on week.

It was the second consecutive drop in pork prices, which have almost doubled over the past seven months due to short supply and mounting production costs.

From August 6 to 12, pork prices fell 1.5 percent, week on week, after efforts taken by the government and producers to increase supply began to take effect, the ministry said.

However, with prices of suckling pigs and pig feed expected to stay high over the Mid-autumn Festival and National Day holidays, the price of pork will remain inflated, the ministry said.

Due to harvesting and transportation problems caused by heavy rains, between August 13 and 19 caraway prices rose 46 percent week-on-week, while rape was up 21.6 percent and cucumbers 18.8 percent.

Last week, of the 40 major edible farm products monitored by the ministry, the prices of 31 items rose while eight fell and one stayed flat.

In July, China's consumer price index rose by a 33-month-high of 5.6 percent on the back of food price hikes. The key inflation indicator was well above the government-set target of 3 percent.

(China Daily / Xinhua News Agency August 24, 2007)

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