China flies in 900 Danish breeding pigs to replenish herd

FILE PHOTO: A student feeds pigs at a farm next to a primary school in Xuanwei, Yunnan province, China, December 22, 2018. REUTERS/Darley Shen

BEIJING (Reuters) - One of China’s top pig farming companies imported 906 breeding pigs from Denmark this week, China’s customs said on Wednesday, in the first import of live pigs in a year.

The animals bought by C.P. Pokphand Co, China’s fifth largest pig producer, arrived on a charter flight in August and spent over a month in quarantine in Xiangyang city in central Hubei province, according to a report on the website of China’s General Administration of Customs.

It is the first import of live breeding stock since African swine fever began spreading through China’s hog herd over a year ago, reducing demand for breeding animals as farmers tried to fight off the deadly, contagious disease and making quarantine of imported pigs more complicated.

But with the disease estimated to have reduced the world’s largest hog herd by more than half, many producers are now speeding up expansion, building new farms and restocking previously infected ones.

CP chief executive Bai Shanlin told Reuters last month it plans to raise 10 million pigs a year by 2021, up from 4 million currently.

Only a handful of countries are permitted to export live swine to China, which has at times imported up to 10,000 pigs a year for genetic improvement of its herd.

The customs database shows imports of breeding pigs from Denmark in August were worth 20.9 million yuan ($2.94 million).

The pigs were supplied by DanBred, which is majority owned by SEGES, the research arm of the Danish Agriculture and Food Council. The company declined to comment on the value of the deal.

(This story corrects spelling in headline)

Reporting by Dominique Patton, editing by Louise Heavens and Richard Pullin