China releases more pork from reserve to cool prices

Business

FILE – In this Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2019, file photo, a clerk stacks cuts of pork at a meat market in Beijing. China is releasing pork from stockpiles for the second time this month to help cool surging prices ahead of next week’s celebration of the Communist Party’s 70th anniversary in power. (AP Photo/Fu Ting, File)

BEIJING (AP) — China’s government is releasing pork from stockpiles for the second time this month to help cool surging prices ahead of next week’s celebration of the Communist Party’s 70th anniversary in power.

The government said Thursday it will auction off 10,000 tons of pork, the country’s staple meat.

The price of pork has soared almost 50% from a year ago due to a devastating outbreak of African swine fever that killed or prompted authorities to destroy many herds.

The disease is fatal and highly contagious for pigs but does not harm humans. Its spread across the region has decimated hog farms and led authorities to impose strict quarantines and other controls.

The crisis is a sour political note for China’s ruling party, which bases its claim to power in part on improved living standards over three decades of market-style economic reform.

The shortages also have pushed up global prices for pork as Chinese importers buy up foreign supplies.

The release announced Thursday is equivalent to less than 0.2% of China’s 2018 monthly consumption of 4.7 million tons. That suggests the move was a signal to consumers and farmers of Beijing’s determination to cool prices instead of an attempt to change supply levels.

China produces and consumes two-thirds of the world’s pork.

The government keeps reserves of live pigs and frozen pork to guarantee adequate supplies.

Details of the pork reserve are secret but industry analysts estimate its size at up to 3 to 5 million metric tons. They say the reserve probably is too small to have an impact on supplies in the market.

Also this month, authorities announced an initiative to revive pork production with support to farmers including subsidies to rebuild pig herds and improve facilities.

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