BEIJING (Reuters) - Stocks of breeding pigs in a major Chinese hog producing region plunged 41 percent in the seven months to February, provincial authorities said, underlining fears about a hit to pork supplies from an epidemic of deadly African swine fever.
The drop covered key farms in Shandong province, northern China’s biggest producer of hogs, according to a report published earlier this week on the website of the provincial husbandry and veterinary bureau.
Shandong produced 47 million pigs in 2017, about 7 percent of all hogs sent to Chinese slaughterhouses, according to official data.
African swine fever has swept through China’s farms since the first outbreak was detected last August. Authorities have confirmed 114 outbreaks of the disease, which is not harmful to humans, but many in the industry believe it is worse than officially reported.
Shandong has only reported one case.
The husbandry and veterinary bureau said the fall in breeding pigs numbers came as small farmers struggled to get bank loans to step up biosecurity measures.
Farmers have also rushed to send their pigs to market and refrained from replenishing their herds as the virus continued to spread, it said, while a fall in pig prices further hurt the sector.
The bureau expected the number of breeding pigs to fall further. Pig prices have risen in March and are expected to rise significantly, it said, curbing consumption.
Chinese pig prices hit a 14-month high earlier this month as the spread of the deadly disease cut output.
China’s agriculture ministry said earlier this month that the national pig herd in February had fallen 16.6 percent year-on-year, and sow stocks were down more than 19 percent.
Reporting by Hallie Gu and Dominique Patton; editing by Richard Pullin