One-third of China’s pig herd–130 million pigs—is infected with African swine fever, and the government is being less than transparent about it. But it’s not the usual Beijing blackout.
- In this case, it actually appears that decentralization is partly responsible for the worrisome secrecy, with the central Ministry of Health politically subservient to provincial health authorities who have little incentive to be open. However the central government is finally copping to the epidemic, judging by the statement from one official, deputy director Wang Junxun, who revealed, “There has never been such panic among farms.”
- According to the same report, four out of five affected farms aren’t even trying to restock hogs yet because of the ongoing epidemic. Overall China produces around half of the world’s pork, which accounts for 60% of meat consumption in the country, or 55 million tons. Prices may rise up to 70%, per Chinese government forecasts.
- The shortage is also pushing up prices for pork in the U.S. and elsewhere, but could hollow out demand for soybeans, a key hog feed.
- This particular epidemic does not appear likely to harm humans—but Adam Minter at Bloomberg remembers SARS and asks: What if the next one does?