China finds first cases of African Swine Fever in country’s south

BEIJING (Reuters) – China’s three-month old outbreak of African Swine Fever has spread for the first time to the country’s south, its major pork-consuming region, after authorities on Sunday reported two cases in southwest Yunnan province.

FILE PHOTO: Pigs are pictured at a farm on the outskirts of Kunming, capital of southwest China’s Yunnan province November 30, 2011. REUTERS/Jason Lee/File Photo

The news comes as China enters its peak pig production period ahead of the country’s most important festival, the New Year holiday, which will be held in early February 2019.

“The thing that we worried about the most has now happened,” said Feng Yonghui, chief analyst at industry portal Soozhu.com, referring to the spread of disease from northeast to southwest.

China has reported more than 40 outbreaks of the highly contagious disease in 11 provinces and municipalities, culling an estimated 200,000 pigs. All outbreaks had been in the north and eastern provinces until the first case in Yunnan.

The latest outbreaks, first reported by the official CCTV, were on two small farms in Zhaotong, a city in the northeast of Yunnan province.

Zhaotong is located almost 3,000 km (1,865 miles) from Shenyang where the first outbreak was reported in early August, but many northern producers truck pigs long distances to meet demand in the south.

A total of 545 pigs had already died on the two farms when the disease was confirmed. Almost 7,000 pigs in the 3-km area around the farms will be culled by midday on Monday, the website of state media Yunnan Daily said on Monday.

The agriculture ministry warned on Friday that pig prices are set to rise ahead of the New Year holiday as outbreaks of African swine fever hit supply.

New cases in the southwest could have a major impact, warned Feng, as people in the region are among the country’s top consumers of pork.

“In the southwest, everyone eats pork, no matter what their income level is,” he said.

“Probably pork prices there will go up, as consumption will remain high but a ban on transportation of pigs from neighboring provinces will likely reduce supplies.”

Reporting by Hallie Gu, Dominique Patton and Beijing Monitoring Desk; Editing by Richard Pullin