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         John Phipps: ASF's Potential Devastating Impact on Small Chinese Farms

         Is swine fever slowing down in China?



John Phipps: ASF's Potential Devastating Impact on Small Chinese Farms


By John Phipps, Farm Journal, Columnist

via AgWeb - Apr 8, 2019


A few years ago, I was struck by this picture of one of the most prosperous farming areas in southern China. What blew me away was the high-rise apartment buildings crammed along the roads on the edges of the fields. Which led me to finally try to get my head around Chinese farms. Letís go to the math.


The average Chinese farm is 1.6 acres, which is what happens when 300 million farmers live in 200 million households on 340 million acres of arable land. To compare we have about 470 million arable acres, so it would be like putting our entire population on about 2/3 of our farmland. To make it even more mind-blowing, fifteen years ago more than twice that many Chinese Ė about 700 million were on farms. The exodus to other work has been astounding.


The oddity that only recently dawned on me after reading about recent efforts by the Chinese government to reform agriculture, is how much useable land is unavailable because of the human footprint. There has to be room for a house and space for any animals. Without such vertical housing, a significant fraction of that 1.6 acres would be homestead, not crops.  The picture of apartment buildings shows the result of efforts to move farmers into denser housing and free up land for cultivation. Certainly, Chinese farmers were already using the minimum of space, but agrarian cultures lack the ability to build much over 2 stories high.


Now add in African Swine Fever...


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Is swine fever slowing down in China?

Chinese authorities report that the spread of African swine fever (ASF) has slowed down and is now under control, but new outbreaks continue to emerge on a daily basis.


The Pig Site

9 April 2019


A new report, titled The real situation of African swine fever in China, was released this week, detailing the number of outbreaks of ASF in China and where they have occurred; how the virus has impacted production since the first outbreak in 2018; and the response that China has taken to control the disease.


There is no doubt that China's pork industry has been struck hard by the highly contagious virus: according to the statistics reported by China Global Television Network (CGTN), China's pig herd has been depleted drastically, falling by almost seven percent since September 2018.


China has responded to the outbreaks with designated infection zones: the infected zone (or epicentre) with a +3km radius; and the threatened area with a +10km radius. Activities within these zones are restricted and specific steps are taken from the moment the disease is identified, to the day the farm is confirmed to be clear of the virus.


As well as restrictive measures, such as the culling of pigs on an infected farm and the band on the movement of pigs into or out of infected zones, support has also been offered to affected farms and producers whose livelihood has been impacted. The latest report from CGTN states that much fewer cases have been reported in Q1 2019 when compared to Q4 2018, and that authorities have confirmed the disease "is now under control".


China's response to the disease has, without doubt, aided with slowing the spread of the virus, but new cases continue to emerge each week so is China really in control?


Reuters reported on Monday (8 April), that Chinese authorities had confirmed a new outbreak of ASF in the Xinjiang region...


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