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China Plans Subsidies, Other Support to Increase Egg Production

China will increase support for battery hen facilities in hopes of preventing declining profitability from driving farmers out of the industry, which happened to the pig-breeding industry and helped cause pork price rises.

The move aimed to "reinforce the foundation for the development of the layer-raising industry and promote the healthy and sustained growth of the industry," the State Council (cabinet) said on Friday.

The government would provide subsidies to farmers raising purebred hens or running large hen farms and help rebuild chicken farms in regions badly hit by this winter's severe snowstorms, it said. It didn't provide details of the subsidy program.

The unusually severe winter weather dealt a heavy blow to vegetable and rapeseed crops and froze many pigs and chickens to death in early 2008.

A monitoring system would be established to provide market information that would help farmers make plans for production, it said.

Although the costs of raising laying hens began to rise last year, egg prices began to fall as supply exceeded demand. As of mid-April, prices were down about 10 percent from the peak reached before the Spring Festival in February, according to the Ministry of Agriculture.

An unidentified ministry official said that farmers were losing 0.4 yuan (5.7 US cents) per 500 grams of eggs. Many foods in China are priced by the 500-gram unit, also called a jin.

The cabinet also said China would give farmers training opportunities to improve their skill and encourage enterprises and scientific research institutions to develop new breeds of laying hens

The government would also support egg processing and distribution firms and extend credit and insurance services to more hen raisers, the Cabinet said

Disease control would be intensified, with compulsory bird flu vaccines provided to farmers and subsidies given to those whose chickens were culled in outbreaks. The ministry warned last month that China would face a more "complicated" epidemic control situation this year with a rise in the number of reported cases.

(Xinhua News Agency April 19, 2008)

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