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Food Supply Stable in Sichuan

The supply of food and other goods in Sichuan Province is stable now and business is expected to recover soon, the commerce minister said on Thursday.

The delivery lines to some remote villages, however, has still not been fully restored because of blocked roads, Chen Deming said at a press conference.

Sichuan is a major pork-supplying province, accounting for about 10 percent of the country's total. But the price of pork in the country will not shoot up because the worst quake-hit areas are in the mountains and they do not supply a large amount of the meat to the national market, Chen said.

The government took steps to rein in pork prices after they shot up to record highs last year. "In fact, in some Chengdu markets, the price of pork have even fallen a little," he said.

"Since we have the mechanism to send materials anywhere in the country at a short notice, it's not that difficult for us to reach goods to quake-hit areas ," he said.

It is still difficult, though, to reach goods to some villages because many roads remain blocked. The ministry, however, will take all possible means to deliver essentials to places in need, he said, even if it means motorcycles, horses and men have to carry them in relay.

Chengdu, the provincial capital, has an abundant supply of goods, Chen said. Counties and towns, too, have a stable supply, and business in the region is recovering despite the heavy losses.

"And by the end of this month, the business at the county level and above should be back on track."

The commerce ministry has asked 15 large-scale national retailers to set up outlets in quake-hit areas to ensure that people there get food and other products.

Chen said the quake has had only a slight impact on the country's overall trade situation. "China is a big country, and there is a lot of room to maneuver."

Exports will not suffer much, though some goods needed badly in the quake-hit areas may not be traded in for the time being. For instance, supply of tents to some countries could be suspended.

The impact of the quake on the consumer price index (CPI) will not be much either, Chen said, because Sichuan accounts for about 4 percent of the country's GDP, and the most severely hit areas comprise only 0.5 percent of the overall GDP.

(China Daily May 23, 2008)

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