China’s coronavirus clampdown pushes pork prices toward record

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BEIJING (Reuters) – China’s pork prices are hovering near last year’s record after measures to battle a coronavirus epidemic hit transport of pigs and delayed the restart of slaughtering plants, crimping already tight supplies of the meat.

The virus epidemic, which has killed more than 1,000 people and infected more than 40,000, prompted many provinces to extend the Lunar New Year holiday by at least a week and clamp down on the movement of people in many regions.

“With restrictions on road transport, purchasing hogs is quite difficult,” said Zhao Yuelei, an analyst with agriculture consultancy Cofeed.

“Live hog stocks in the market remain low, which pushes up hog prices.”

Average pork prices reached 51.21 yuan ($7.34) a kg on Tuesday, up from 48 yuan before the holiday, and close to last October’s record of 54 yuan, data from Cofeed showed.

The figure contrasts with the fall in prices normally seen after the holiday period’s strong demand.

Roadblocks and transport curbs have held up the movement of pigs to slaughter-houses, while a lockdown on many cities and counties has left too few staff to operate them.

The disease prevention and control measures remain in place despite calls by the agriculture and rural affairs ministry for food production to get priority, Zhao added.

Several slaughterhouses run by one of China’s top pork producers, C.P. Pokphand Co Ltd, only reopened this week, said Chief Executive Bai Shanlin.

Two weeks in quarantine faces workers returning from virus-hit areas before they can resume work, he added.

The logistics and labor issues compound a shortage caused by an epidemic of deadly African swine fever that reduced China’s huge pig herd more than 40% last year.

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