Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Pigs and the Earthquake in Sichuan

To follow up on the previous post, pigs also died in the hundreds of thousands in the massive earthquake that struck Sichuan province in China on May 12th. According to an article entitled "Economic Tremors of Chinese Disaster" by Leo Lewis in the Times (UK) Online (here), about 1 in 10 pigs in China is produced in Sichuan, making it the nation's biggest producer of pigs. He notes that an estimated 800,000 pigs have died as a result of the quake, but that such a loss only represents less than 1% of the province's pork production. 

There may be some effect on pork prices, which have doubled in China over the past year already. According to a great overview on the NBC World News Blog by researcher Ed Flanagan (here), about 65% of the 110 pounds of meat the average Chinese eat each year is pork, which has made the pork price increases--tied to an outbreak of PRRS ("blue ear disease"), underproduction as a result of low prices in 2006, poor weather, the use of feedstuffs in ethanol production, and the greater demand for meat as a result of growing incomes--quite burdensome. As it turns out, supply can't meet demand, even in a country that has half a billion pigs. 

Today's image accompanied an L.A. Times article (here) by Don Lee called "Fallout from China's Quake Could Include Inflation," which is also worth a read. According to the article, Liu Feng, a salesman at a pork-processor located about 130 miles from the epicenter of the quake, noted that "we cannot purchase pigs" due to damage to the region's infrastructure. Apparently the Sichuan Gaojin Food Co. normally bought 1,000 hogs per day, but as Feng complained, "Today we raised the price twice and the most we got was 200 pigs."

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