Many Asian countries are making final preparations for Lunar New Year celebrations. In China, the Lunar New Year holiday will begin this Friday, January 24. Under the country’s traditional zodiac system, the next 12 months will be known as the Year of the Rat.
But this year could be different in China because of African swine fever virus, also known as African swine flu. The disease, which affects farm animals, has led to the loss of huge numbers of pigs on Chinese farms.
Swine flu has affected the country’s meat industry in a big way. Official records released last week showed that pork production fell by 21 percent over the past year. In addition, the agriculture ministry reported that the number of pigs kept at Chinese farms had fallen by 40 percent by October.
As a result, pork prices all over the country have increased by about 200 percent because of a shortage. The high price of pork has added to inflation, which has now reached an eight-year high.
A Reuters news agency reporter spoke to Xu, a woman from central China. Her family lost their herd of pigs to swine flu. Now, she is sharply cutting back on her use of pork for the holiday.
“Pork just costs too much. People can’t bear the price.”
China’s government has provided more the 200,000 tons of frozen pork since December to increase supplies for the Lunar New Year holiday. The country also imported 375,000 tons in December – a record amount.
Less pork more chicken and duck?
During the winter months, traditional cured pork products such as la rou are very popular. But this season, la rou sellers are reporting slow sales and fewer people looking to buy.
Zhang Sheng has sold cured pork in a market in the city of Guiyang for the past five years.
“This year, pork is very expensive so individual customers are buying less (la rou),” Zhang said.
In Shanghai, four cured pork makers told Reuters that their businesses are suffering because of price increases between 20 and 30 percent.
“I imagine many people will be having more chicken and duck this New Year,” one seller said.
I’m Mario Ritter Jr.