China in the grip of pig disease

It’s the time of the annual Spring Festival again, when we celebrate the Chinese New Year. This year is the Year of the Pig. In China, the pig symbolises prosperity. That doesn’t apply to real pigs, though. Especially not to pig farming at the moment!

That’s because China is in the grip of pig disease. Pork is the most popular type of meat consumed in China by far. It accounts for no less than 65% of the entire meat consumption.

In the fight against pig disease, more than 1 million pigs have been killed during the past six months alone. That seems like a large number, but it isn’t really if you consider the size of the entire pig-farming industry. China produces more than 700 million pigs per year. That’s half of the entire worldwide production. The vast majority is intended for domestic consumption.

As pork is such an important product, the government keeps a strategic reserve of frozen pork. They do this to stabilise the prices, but also ‘just in case’. If things are really going to get out of control and the availability of pork becomes insufficient, this will of course affect the government’s credibility. Hence the national reserve of pork.

The virus is spreading rapidly across the various provinces. Probably because the first outbreaks were conveniently swept under the carpet. Rumour has it that certain veterinarians were happy to look the other way for a couple of banknotes. Pigs are shipped all over the country, so if an infected party isn’t seized, it can easily end up in a different province and spread the virus there. That’s how it works.

Just like the flower farms here, pig farms are usually relatively small. If they can’t stop the virus soon, it can end up being disastrous for up to a million small pig farmers. Perhaps the small farms are actually part of the problem. Small companies are sometimes not too bothered about hygiene, when that happens to be of outmost importance if you want to eliminate this virus. Anyway, thanks to Trump, the Chinese will have to purchase their pigs in Europe. Perhaps that’s good news for Dutch pig farmers.

Happy Year of the Pig!

Cok Harteveld,

General manager Van den Berg Roses, China

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