China eases environmental regulations for small hog farms

SHANGHAI, July 12 (Reuters) - China will no longer require small pig farms to get environmental approval from the government before breeding pigs as the country seeks to rebuild its hog herd following a disease outbreak, the agriculture ministry said on Monday.

The move, which will reduce costs and red tape for small farmers, comes as China tries to lure them back into pig production. A deadly African swine fever virus wiped out around half of the country’s huge pig herd during 2018 and 2019 and hit small farmers particularly hard.

“For pig breeding projects with annual output of less than 5,000 pigs, the environmental impact registration form shall be filed online, without requiring environmental impact assessment approval,” the agriculture ministry said in a statement.

The world’s largest pork producer still relies heavily on small farmers for output, but the outbreak left them with large debts and they are hesitant to rebuild stocks due to ongoing disease risks and a lack of capital.

The agriculture ministry has warned that China’s hog production recovery still faces uncertainties and that the risk from the African swine fever outbreak remains “relatively great.”

While China has rapidly rebuilt some of the lost stock, there have been further outbreaks this year in northern China and the southwestern Sichuan province, and more strains of the virus circulating. (Reporting by Emily Chow; Editing by Ana Nicolaci da Costa)