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China to tap strategic meat reserves as pork prices soar

China is home to nearly half of the world's live pig supply (AFP Photo/GREG BAKER)

China is considering tapping into its strategic frozen reserves of meat, its top economic planner said Wednesday, as it grapples with a swine fever outbreak that has ripped through its massive pig-farming industry.

Authorities are scrambling to contain the outbreak, culling or killing more than one million pigs, as prices of the country's staple meat have soared amid severe shortages.

"We have sufficient material resources, effective policy tools, and experience in regulation and control," said Peng Shaozhong, director of the pricing department at the National Development and Reform Commission.

"We are confident that we can cope with challenges, resolve risks, and do a good job in maintaining prices of live pigs."

The price of pork has been edging up for months, and was 46.7 percent higher in August compared with last year, data published on Tuesday showed.

The crisis has forced authorities to consider dipping into strategic meat reserves.

"Recently, we have also taken the lead in formulating the frozen pork delivery plan... that will offer a strong guarantee to the pork market during the upcoming Mid-Autumn Festival, National Day and next year's New Year's Day and Spring Festival," Peng said.

The move comes ahead of a week-long celebration of Communist China's 70th anniversary in October, and Lunar New Year festivities in late January when families gather for reunion feasts.

The number of pigs culled as a result of the outbreak is widely believed to be much higher than 1.1 million, as official data shows China's pig herd totalled 347.6 million in the first half of the year, down 60 million from the same period last year.

China is home to nearly half of the world's live pig supply.

Beijing has also announced subsidies ranging from 500,000 yuan to 5 million yuan (about $70,500 to $702,500) to big pig breeders to boost production, state news agency Xinhua reported Monday.

Some cities have also started offering discounted pork, according to Chinese media reports.

The outbreak of swine flu -- for which there is no vaccine -- has spread to neighbouring countries too since the first cases emerged in August 2018.