Published Date: 2007-05-29 21:00:02
Subject: PRO/AH> Undiagnosed disease, porcine - China (06)
Archive Number: 20070529.1735
UNDIAGNOSED DISEASE, PORCINE - CHINA (06)
A ProMED-mail post
ProMED-mail is a program of the
International Society for Infectious Diseases
Date: Tue, 29 May 2007
Source: Financial Times [edited]
Pork crisis sparks China inflation fears
A disease killing millions of pigs in China has sharply lifted the
price of pork, the country's staple meat, fueling fears about
inflation and prompting calls from Beijing's top leadership for
increased production of the meat. Wen Jiabao, the premier, provided
confirmation of the seriousness of the crisis with a weekend [26-27
May 2007] visit to a market in Shaanxi, where he said farmers should
help "resolve the problem" of providing meat for China's 1.3 billion people.
Pork prices have risen as much as 30 percent in Chinese cities over
the last week [20-26 May 2007]. According to the agriculture
ministry, wholesale prices for pigs have gone up even more, rising
71.3 percent since April . China's 500 million-odd pigs are the
country's most important source of affordable meat, and any sustained
interruption in supply would be a big political problem for the government.
While the price of feed, such as corn, has risen, the main culprit is
an epidemic of a mysterious illness known as "blue ear" disease, as
well as the more common foot-and-mouth affliction.
"I have heard it has killed as many as 20 million hogs," an industry
The government has not issued any estimate of how many pigs have been
struck by the disease and China's size and the number of small
producers make it difficult quickly to obtain reliable figures. But
the impact of the shortage of pork is apparent in many areas, from
sausage makers switching meats, to rising offal prices, and attempts
by Hong Kong to import meat from South America.
China cannot easily find competitively priced pork to replace the
shortfall at home, because of its own health-related restrictions on
imports from South America, where prices are relatively low. US and
European pork is more expensive. The government has a "strategic pork
reserve," established in the late 1990s, including both frozen stocks
and access to pig farms, which could provide a buffer.
"We are considering releasing some of these reserves into the market
in certain targeted areas in order to reduce soaring prices," said Li
Xizhen, of the Ministry of Commerce. "We will not be giving free meat
to people, but will sell pork and use market mechanisms to bring down
volatility." Mr. Wen, in his visit to the market, said the government
was "going all out to ensure the supply of pork and keep it affordable."
Soaring pork prices are also expected to add to inflation, already
under pressure from rising food prices in other areas.
"The surge in pork prices will likely push year-on-year CPI [consumer
price index] inflation to above 4 percent very soon," said Hong
Liang, of Goldman Sachs in Hong Kong, in a research note. "Meat
constitutes about 7 percent of the CPI basket, and its price
pressures are likely to spread to eggs,fish and other food products."
Although 4 percent is above the central bank's unofficial "tolerance
rate" of 3 percent, core inflation remains low.
[Byline: Richard McGregor in Beijing and Jamil Anderlini in Hong Kong]
FMD Surveillance and Modeling Laboratory
University of California at Davis
[The disease which obtained in China the name "High fever disease"
(HFD) since its 1st known detection in mid-2006, was initially
attributed to a mix, consisting of infection of Porcine Reproductive
and Respiratory Syndrome (PRRS), classical swine fever (CSF) and
porcine circovirus (PCV-2), and probably additional agents; see
China's notification to the OIE of 14 Sep 2006, included in posting:
As recently suggested (posting 20070525.1675), African swine fever
(ASF) deserves being added to the HFD differential diagnosis list;
Foot and mouth disease, of which the virus serotypes Asia 1 and O of
are known to be widely distributed in China, should be included as well.
The major economical losses justify enhanced efforts to obtain a
clear identification of HFD's causal agent(s), which -- hopefully --
will lead to subsequent effective control of the devastating
syndrome. - Mod.AS].