Pork reserve on holiday menu

World | ASSOCIATED PRESS 19 Sep 2019

China is releasing pork from stockpiles to help cool prices ahead of October 1 celebrations of the Communist Party's 70th anniversary in power.

The price of pork, the mainland's staple meat, has soared almost 50 percent from a year ago due to an outbreak of African swine fever that killed or prompted authorities to destroy pigs, pushing up global prices as importers buy foreign supplies.

A government agency that manages the stockpile of frozen pork said yesterday it will auction off 10,000 tons.

That is equivalent to less than 0.2 percent of China's 2018 monthly consumption of 4.7 million tons, suggesting the announcement was a signal of Beijing's determination to cool prices instead of an attempt to change supply levels.

The government keeps reserves of live pigs and frozen pork to guarantee adequate supplies. Details of the frozen pork reserve are secret but industry analysts estimate its size at up to 3 to 5 million metric tons.

Industry analysts say that is probably too small to have an impact on supplies in the market. The last government release in January was 9,600 tons.

This month, authorities announced an initiative to revive pork production through measures such as subsidies to rebuild pig herds and improve facilities.

The National Development and Reform Commission promised to take "control measures in a timely manner'' to keep food prices steady ahead of the October 1 celebrations.

Pork output plunged as authorities destroyed herds and blocked shipments to stop African swine fever, which first was reported in August 2018 in the northeast.

African swine fever doesn't harm humans but is fatal and spreads quickly among pigs. Outbreaks have been reported in South Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia, Taiwan and Mongolia.

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