By Dominique Patton and Hallie Gu

BEIJING (Reuters) – As many as half of China’s breeding pigs have either died from African swine fever or been slaughtered because of the spreading disease, twice as many as officially acknowledged, according to the estimates of four people who supply large farms.

While other estimates are more conservative, the plunge in the number of sows is poised to leave a large hole in the supply of the country’s favorite meat, pushing up food prices and devastating livelihoods in a rural economy that includes 40 million pig farmers.

“Something like 50% of sows are dead,” said Edgar Wayne Johnson, a veterinarian who has spent 14 years in China and founded Enable Agricultural Technology Consulting, a Beijing-based farm services firm with clients across the country.

Three other executives at producers of vaccines, feed additives and genetics also estimate losses of 40% to 50%, based on falling sales for their companies’ products and direct knowledge of the extent of the deadly disease on farms across the country.

 

iStock, vinhdav

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