January 2, 2019 / 11:21 AM / a year ago

African swine fever hits huge, foreign-invested Chinese farm

BEIJING (Reuters) - China reported an outbreak of deadly African swine fever on a huge pig farm part-owned by a Danish investment fund, showing the spread of the virus to modern industrial farms expected to have the best levels of disease prevention.

A vendor prepares pork for sale at a market in Beijing, China December 26, 2018. Picture taken December 26, 2018. REUTERS/Jason Lee

The outbreak occurred on a farm in Suihua city with 73,000 pigs in northeastern Heilongjiang province, owned by the Heilongjiang Asia-Europe Animal Husbandry Co Ltd, a company established in 2016.

The farm’s herd included 15,000 breeding pigs, according to its website, and it was aiming to produce 385,000 pigs for slaughter a year. Some 4,686 pigs had been infected and 3,766 animals died, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs said late on Wednesday. All animals on infected farms must be culled under current rules.

The farm is the largest yet to be hit by the disease, which has infected almost 100 farms across China since August 2018, spreading faster than in any other country to date.

More than 200,000 pigs on infected farms have been culled, according to a Reuters tally of official figures, while hundreds of thousands more in the vicinity have also been put down.

China has the world’s largest hog herd and the rapid spread of African swine fever has roiled the country’s trade in pork, the nation’s most popular meat, disrupting supplies and pushing up prices in some areas.

Neither Heilongjiang Asia-Europe Animal Husbandry nor its majority owner, state-owned Zhejiang Rural Development Group Co. Ltd, responded to calls for comment.

Steffen Schiottz-Christensen, vice president for North Asia at Denmark state fund IFU, confirmed the outbreak but declined to comment further as he had yet to be fully briefed.

IFU, which provides risk capital and advice for investment in developing countries, invested 28.4 million DKK ($4.32 million) in the farm in 2017, according to its website, although its shareholding has since been diluted, Schiottz-Christensen said.

“The African swine fever situation is only getting worse. Small farms, big farms, slaughterhouses, feed - the whole production chain basically all got hit,” said Yao Guiling, an analyst with consultancy China-America Commodity Data Analytics.

Beijing has banned feeding kitchen waste to pigs, and restricted transport of live pigs and products from infected areas.

But the virus has now reached 23 provinces and municipalities across China. The disease is deadly to pigs but does not affect humans.

“The policies are good, but the increasing outbreaks show that there might be some problem with execution at the local government level,” said Yao.

China’s agriculture ministry also said on Wednesday that slaughterhouses will need to test their pork products for African swine fever before selling them to the market.

Slideshow (8 Images)

Slaughterhouses must slaughter pigs from different origins separately, and can only sell the products if blood from the same batch of pigs tests negative for the virus.

If the virus is detected, slaughterhouses must cull all pigs to be slaughtered and suspend operations for at least 48 hours, according to the regulation, which will go into effect from Feb. 1.

(For a graphic on 'Swine fever in China' click tmsnrt.rs/2QMhmzL)

Reporting by Hallie Gu and Dominique Patton; editing by David Evans and Richard Pullin

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