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Pig Disease Remains a Big Challenge

Blue-ear pig disease remains a severe challenge to China's Yangtze River valley although the outbreak has been basically put under control, the Ministry of Agriculture (MOA) warned in an emergency notice.

Latest MOA figures revealed that 39,455 pigs or 27.5 percent of infected animals in 586 epidemic areas died by July 10.

Since the start of this year, the outbreak had hit 25 provinces on the mainland.

"With temperature and humidity staying high during the season, it's impossible to rule out the possibility of aggravation in some areas," the notice said.

The ministry urged veterinary departments to stay on alert, having a full grasp of the severity of the highly pathogenic disease and using all possible means to curb its spread.

It predicted that the short supply of vaccines would be eased in August when more would be released.

Vaccine immunization should focus on boars and sows to ensure a healthy reproduction of the animals, the ministry said, adding that the Yangtze River valley and other major epidemic areas needed to be kept under watch.

It said that livestock breeding and vaccine immunization information must be properly filed.

Local authorities were urged to effectively quarantine epidemic areas and ban the slaughtering, marketing, transport and consumption of pork meat harvested from such pigs.

Local governments were also advised to double-check every outbreak report and keep the MOA posted. Those who cover up or lie about outbreaks will be punished severely in line with the law.

Huang Hai, assistant Minister of Commerce, said on Saturday that the price of pork would hover on a high level in the latter half of the year, because short supplies could hardly be eased in a short period of time.

Pork wholesale prices polled by the ministry in 36 large and medium-sized cities averaged 18.57 yuan (US$2.39) per kilogram on July 11, up nearly 30 percent from the 14.25 yuan (US$1.83) on May 11. The average retail price for lean pork exceeded 22 yuan (US$2.83) per kilogram.

As the disease, also known as Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome, often causes miscarriage, many farmers have been reluctant to replenish their livestock farms with more sows despite the price hikes.

The number of live pigs in stock in May dropped 15 to 20 percent year-on-year while the sales of sows declined by 20 to 30 percent year-on-year in June, according to a joint survey made by the National Development and Reform Commission, the ministries of Agriculture and Commerce.

Huang assured the public that the government was capable of securing pork supplies. Commerce, agricultural and economic planning departments have been urged to stage an overhaul on local pork reserves to ease the short supply.

(Xinhua News Agency July 16, 2007)

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