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China moves to halt swine fever with hog industry overhaul

BEIJING (Reuters) – China plans to divide its hog industry into five zones in an attempt to halt the spread African swine fever across the world’s top pork producer and guarantee supplies.

FILE PHOTO: Pigs are seen on the back of a truck outside a slaughterhouse in Dongguan, Guangdong province, China December 22, 2017. REUTERS/Stringer/File Photo

Beijing has reported more than 100 outbreaks of the disease, which is fatal to pigs but not harmful to people, in 28 provinces and regions since last August, causing turmoil in the $1 trillion industry and related sectors.

China’s Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs drew up the plan which aims to encourage the trade of pigs and pig products within the regions, after earlier measures distorted prices and the market.

The plan, which was outlined in a document reviewed by Reuters, was sent to provincial governments and municipalities for their feedback last week and it is not clear if it has already been approved.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs did not immediately respond to a fax with questions on the document, which was issued on Feb. 18 and requested feedback by Feb. 22.

In a separate document, Beijing also said it is targeting fewer outbreaks of the disease in the first half of 2019 than in the second half of last year.

Despite banning the movement of pigs out of infected provinces, the disease, for which there is no cure or vaccine, has spread rapidly and been reported in three new provinces over the last week, including on large farms that are expected to have higher disease prevention standards.

Major Chinese frozen food producer Sanquan Food last week recalled batches of dumplings after media reports said some had tested positive for the African swine fever virus.

China’s vice premier Hu Chunhua said on Tuesday that the situation remained “very serious” and called for intensifying controls, a Xinhua report on a government meeting said.

Under the proposal, disease prevention measures will be co-ordinated by the region, rather than at a provincial level, with responsible authorities also overseeing stable supplies.

Each region contains one of China’s top pig-producing provinces, which will ensure it is basically self-sufficient in pork, said the document, which also included a map and data on the self-sufficiency rate.

It proposes piloting the new system first in the “central south” zone that comprises Fujian, Jiangxi, Hunan, Guangdong, Guangxi and Hainan.

This zone would then share its experience with the rest of the country before the other regions proceed with the plan.

Reporting by Dominique Patton and Hallie Gu. Additional reporting by Beijing Newsroom; editing by Christian Schmollinger and Alexander Smith

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