Top China pig farmer falls into red on weak hog prices, hygiene costs

BEIJING, April 24 (Reuters) - China’s biggest pig and poultry producer, Wen’s Foodstuff Group, said on Wednesday it recorded a loss of 460.5 million yuan ($68.58 million) for the first three months of the year as weak pig and poultry prices eroded earnings.

The firm, which produced 22 million pigs in 2018, reported a profit of 1.4 billion yuan in the same quarter a year earlier.

Wen sold 5.96 million pigs in the first quarter, almost 20 percent more than a year earlier, but low prices in the first two months of the year pushed its hog business into a loss, it said, even though prices rose in March.

The livestock producer also invested in new facilities and measures to prevent African swine fever, increasing costs.

African swine fever is fatal in pigs and could mean as many as 200 million pigs are culled or die in China this year, according to one estimate, causing a severe shortage in pork and other meats.

In poultry, sales volumes of its yellow-feathered broiler chickens jumped 20 percent in the quarter to 184 million birds, but prices were down 14.78 percent over the prior year’s first quarter amid growing supplies in the market.

Still, Wen’s said it would stick to its strategy of producing more pigs and chickens, and plans to boost its broiler output by at least 10 percent this year.

$1 = 6.7150 yuan Reporting by Dominique Patton; Editing by Tom Hogue