* U.S. pig exports restricted temporarily over virus
* USDA says "capable and willing" to implement testing
* Some U.S. veterinarians suspect virus came from China
(New throughout, updates with Japan restrictions, USDA comment)
By Tom Polansek
April 4 U.S. livestock exporters hope China will
lift restrictions on imports of live U.S. pigs by the end of
April if tests can be agreed for a virus deadly to piglets, a
trade group said on Friday.
China, the world's No. 1 pork consumer, and Japan have
imposed "temporary restrictions" on U.S. pig imports until their
agriculture ministries reach agreements with the United States
on testing animals for the Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus, or
PEDv, said Tony Clayton, president of the Livestock Exporters
Association of the USA.
"Japan and China are the first two to officially notify the
U.S., and they both happened this week," Clayton said, adding
that import permits were being delayed.
The restrictions are on shipments of live U.S. animals that
are used to develop genetic breeding programs. In 2013, China
bought about $20 million worth of U.S. breeding pigs.
China has indicated that "it shouldn't take long" to
establish testing protocols, Clayton said.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture is "capable and willing"
to establish testing and certification protocols for live
animals exported to China, said Joelle Hayden, spokeswoman for
USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.
The United States also is working with the Chinese
government to remove the requirements, she said.
USDA representatives had no immediate comment on Japan.
The Ministry of Agriculture in Beijing could not immediately
Mexico last year restricted imports of live hogs from the
United States. Japan, China and Mexico are among
the top buyers of U.S. pork for meat.
The virus, nearly always fatal in piglets, has crimped hog
supplies in the United States and sent prices to record highs.
There are more than 4,700 cases in 27 states so far, according
to the U.S. government. Some estimates suggest 4-5 million pigs
have died since it was first reported in May 2013.
Some veterinarians in the United States think the U.S.
outbreak can be traced back to China, which had its own outbreak
of PEDv in 2010, said Chris Hurt, an agricultural economist at
"Any country would be very, very hesitant to be importing
live animals from the United States at this point," he added.
China's own pork market is seeing sharply lower prices and
further falls could come as the market is oversupplied.
Last month, Beijing announced plans to stockpile frozen meat
to support the market, where prices have slumped to three-year
lows and farmers are losing money on their hogs.
Wholesale pork prices are hovering at between 10-12 yuan per
kilogram, compared with a 2011 high of about 20 yuan per kg,
according to data from industry portal chinapig.cn.
(Additional reporting by Fayen Wong in Shanghai and Josephine
Mason in New York; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn, Diane Craft and