A breeder sprays disinfectant in a pig farm in Guang'an, Southwest China's Sichuan Province on August 27, 2019. （Photo: VCG）
Provincial governments in China are taking measures to stabilize pork output after months of soaring prices, which insiders said may persist for some time, given the gap between supply and demand.
"Pork supplies are under high pressure, and prices will stay at an elevated level for the rest of this year. Prices won't fall much even next year," Wang Zuli, a research fellow with the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, told the Global Times on Sunday.
Domestic pork prices hit records after outbreaks of African swine fever (ASF), which killed large numbers of pigs.
China, the biggest pork consumer in the world, has culled 1.16 million hogs since ASF was first reported in August 2018. China had recorded 143 outbreaks of ASF, which is fatal for pigs but harmless for humans, as of July 3 this year, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs (MARA) said in July.
"The price of pork has soared over the past month, nearly doubling to 44 yuan ($6.15) per kilogram now from 24 yuan three months ago," Tang Guoliang, a resident in Lichuan county, East China's Jiangxi Province, told the Global Times on Sunday.
"I won't eat pork unless I have guests," he added.
As of Sunday, low-priced pork was being rationed in Nanning, capital of South China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, where each resident can only buy 1 kilogram per day at a price 10 percent below the market average in the previous 10 days in 10 pilot sites, according to the Nanning Evening News on Sunday.
Pork consumption in the first half of this year in bazaar markets in China fell by 12 percent year-on-year after the ASF outbreak, and it is expected that annual demand for pork will be reduced by about 10 percent, Xin Guochang at the husbandry and veterinarian bureau of the MARA, said on Saturday.
To encourage pork supply, Southwest China's Sichuan Province on August 26 rolled out measures to ensure output, including financial support for pig feed.
Other provinces such as East China's Fujian Province and Jiangsu Province as well as Central China's Hubei Province all vowed similar measures.
Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous region ordered that each city should be 100 percent self-sufficient in pork. Several places in Northeast China's Heilongjiang Province encouraged women in rural areas to increase pork output, and ensure their confidence in pig feeding.
"We should ensure pork supply by all means," Vice Premier Hu Chunhua said on Friday, noting that the government will strictly crack down on market speculation, actively boost the production of alternative meat products and increase frozen pork supply.
Zhao Zhuo, official from the ministry, said this round of price hikes reflects the impact of ASF.
There are also cyclical factors as hog prices rebounded after falling to a low point in May 2018.
Data from the ministry showed that the price hikes started in June or July this year. In July, the number of pigs in 400 counties that are monitored nationwide decreased by 9.4 percent month-on-month, down 32.2 percent year-on-year.
However, Xin from the MARA said that meat supply is guaranteed this year due to factors such as reduced pork consumption and rising imports.
China imported 819,000 tons of pork in the first half of this year, an increase of 26.4 percent, and chicken meat production increased by 13.5 percent in the first half of the year.
China, the world's biggest hog producer, produced 54.04 million tons of pork in 2018, data from National Bureau of Statistics showed.