Tom Hancock in Shanghai AN HOUR AGO Print this page1
Spiralling pork prices caused by African swine fever threaten to undermine the image of China’s ruling Communist party and economic stability, a top official has said, as one city began selling rations of the meat at discounted prices. Prices of pork, which accounts for more than 60 per cent of China’s meat consumption, rose more than 25 per cent in August from July, with hog prices surpassing a 2016 record of Rmb21 per kilogramme, according to consultancy Shanghai JC Intelligence. Increasing pork production is a “major political task”, Hu Chunhua, a Chinese vice-premier and member of the politburo, told top officials at a meeting late last week, according to a transcript of his comments seen by the Financial Times. “This is a military-style order from the party central committee,” he added. The size of China’s pig herd has fallen by more than a third over the past year due to dozens of outbreaks of the disease, which is not harmful to humans, but lethal in pigs.
Pre-emptive culling of pigs kept meat supplies high at first, which meant prices only began to surge from June. Mr Hu warned that pork prices threatened to spoil 70th anniversary national day celebrations planned for October 1. Rises would “affect the joyful and peaceful atmosphere to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the founding of New China”, he said. Failure to control prices “will seriously affect the effectiveness of building a comprehensively well-off society and undermine the image of the party and government”, Mr Hu said, adding that rising prices could impact “economic stability”. Policies proposed by Mr Hu include more financial support for pig farmers and giving targets for production to each province. Sichuan province in south-west China said last week it would set targets for pig production for each city under its jurisdiction. “Prices have already surpassed the historic record set in 2016, so the government is very worried about the impact on the economy especially of low-income people,” said Feng Yonghui, an analyst at pork consultancy Soozhu.
Recommended China No end in sight for China’s swine fever outbreak China’s commerce ministry said last week it would release frozen pork from a “strategic pork reserve” to help stabilise prices. The reserve was established in 2007, but its size is a state secret. China’s transport ministry announced that, from this week, vehicles transporting piglets and chilled pork would be exempt from vehicle tolls under a “green passage” policy. In the most radical policy yet, the government of the southern Chinese city of Nanning this week began selling pork at a discount to the average market price recorded over the previous 10 days. Customers are limited to one kilogramme a day. Chinese media compared the measure to the return of state-issued vouchers for food purchases which were phased out from the 1980s as China transitioned to a more market-driven economy. “Food vouchers have returned!” reported one Chinese outlet. Additional reporting by Wang Xueqiao