Major Chinese pig farmer caught flouting rules on manure treatment

BEIJING (Reuters) - Two farms operated by China’s fourth-biggest pig producer Jiangxi Zhengbang Technology were found to be illegally dumping manure and allowing noxious sewage to seep into farmland, the Ministry of Ecology and Environment said.

It was a rare rebuke of one of the country’s rapidly growing farming companies, and comes as China sustains a years-long effort to tackle its notorious pollution problem that includes frequently calling out companies that have failed to comply with regulations.

But until now, few major livestock firms have been named as polluters. Earlier this year Beijing said that it would extend its environmental campaign to the countryside, where contamination of soil and water have been left unresolved for years.

The report published on Sunday on the ministry’s website showed that equipment installed by Zhengbang to treat manure on two 100,000-head pig farms in Heilongjiang province was not in use following inspection by authorities.

Instead, waste water was piped into leaking temporary storage pools, where it seeped into the ground, according to the report, adding manure was piled in a heap in open air.

“We are still investigating the issue,” a company official, who declined to be identified as she was not authorized to talk to media, said on Monday.

Zhengbang produced 3.4 million pigs for slaughter last year, up 51 percent from 2016, according to its 2017 annual report. It is targeting as many as 6.5 million heads this year.

China has introduced tougher rules for handling of manure in recent years, forcing many backyard farms to shut.

Large commercial farms, having the funds to install waste treatment plants, are taking their place.

But Sunday’s report said more rigorous supervision is needed to make sure farms are complying with rules, particularly in the northeast.

Zhengbang is among dozens of pig producers that have expanded in China’s northeast in the past year, encouraged by government policy promoting livestock production in the country’s grain basket.

Reporting by Dominique Patton; Additional reporting by David Stanway and Beijing Newsroom; Editing by Manolo Serapio Jr.