Chinese province scrambles to find pork amid swine fever lockdown

BEIJING (Reuters) - A province in southern China is scrambling to find supplies of pork as the spread of African swine fever shuts down the transport of live hogs from major producers and threatens shortages of the country’s favorite meat.

The efforts of officials in the southern province of Zhejiang highlight the stress felt in China’s major pork consuming provinces as measures to control the disease outbreak have stranded pigs at farms, leaving slaughterhouses short of stock.

Pork prices in the country’s populous south have risen as China’s vast pig market is locked down in the fight against the highly contagious African swine fever.

Officials at Zhejiang’s provincial animal husbandry bureau have asked their counterparts in neighboring Shandong province for help in securing pork supplies, according to a document dated Sept. 11 and reviewed by Reuters.

The Zhejiang bureau asked for a list of 10 slaughterhouses and 20 farming groups in Shandong that could supply pork to companies in the southern province, the document said.

A Zhejiang bureau official said it needed to take measures because hog prices have jumped significantly in the past month.

“We are doing this in advance to prepare for potential shortages of pork products in the future as controls on hog transportation have further tightened,” said the official, who declined to be named because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

Hog prices in Zhejiang were trading at 18.14 yuan ($2.65) per kilogram on Wednesday, up 25 percent since early August, when China reported its first outbreaks of the swine fever, according to data from China-America Commodity Data Analytics.

Zhejiang province reported its first African swine fever outbreak in the city of Yueqing in late August.

Zhejiang is a big buyer of hogs from provinces like Shandong and Henan, which are now both part of the transport ban.

China on Tuesday expanded its ban on the transport of live hogs from six provinces that have reported African swine fever outbreaks, to include 10 provinces neighboring the infected regions.

Reporting by Hallie Gu, Dominique Patton and Beijing newsroom; Editing by Darren Schuettler