Tue, May 15, 2018 - Page 6 News List

China building multistory hog hotels to modernize farm sector, create wealth

Reuters, YAJI MOUNTAIN, China

A worker waits for an elevator to transport piglets out of Guangxi Yangxiang’s high-rise pig farm at Yaji Mountain Forest Park in Guangxi Province, China, on March 21.

Photo: Reuters

On Yaji Mountain in southern China, they are checking in the sows a thousand head per floor in high-rise “hog hotels.”

Privately owned agricultural company Guangxi Yangxiang Co is running two seven-floor sow breeding operations, and is putting up four more, including one with as many as 13 floors that will be the world’s tallest building of its kind.

Hog farms of two or three floors have been tried in Europe. Some are still operating, others have been abandoned, but few new ones have been built in recent years, because of management difficulties and public resistance to large, intensive farms.

Now, as China pushes ahead with industrialization of the world’s largest hog herd, part of a 30-year effort to modernize its farm sector and create wealth in rural areas, companies are experimenting with high-rise housing for pigs despite the costs.

The “hotels” show how far some breeders are willing to go as China overhauls its farming model.

“There are big advantages to a high-rise building,” said Xu Jiajing, manager of Yangxiang’s mountain-top farm.

“It saves energy and resources. The land area is not that much, but you can raise a lot of pigs,” Xu said.

Companies like Yangxiang are pumping more money into the buildings — about 30 percent more than on single-story modern farms — even as hog prices in China hold at an eight-year low.

For some, the investments are too risky. Besides low prices that have smaller operations culling sows or rethinking expansion plans, there is worry about diseases spreading through such intensive operations.

However, success for high-rise pig farms in China could have implications across densely populated, land-scarce Asia, as well as for equipment suppliers.

“We see an increasing demand for two or three-level buildings,” said Peter van Issum, managing director of Microfan, a Dutch supplier that designed Yangxiang’s ventilation system.

Microfan also supplied a three-story breeding operation, Daedeok JongDon GGP Farm, in South Korea.

“The higher ones are still an exception, but the future might change rapidly,” Van Issum said.

Yaji Mountain seems an unlikely location for a huge breeding farm. Up a narrow road, away from villages, massive concrete pig buildings overlook a valley of dense forest that Yangxiang plans to develop as a tourist attraction.

However, the site is relatively close to Guigang, a city with a river port and waterway connections to the Pearl River Delta, one of the world’s most densely populated regions.

While Beijing is encouraging more livestock production in China’s grain basket in the northeast, many worry that farms there will struggle to get fresh pork safely to big cities thousands of kilometers away.

That has helped push some farm investments to southern provinces like Guangxi and Fujian, where land is hilly, but much closer to many of China’s biggest cities.

Yangxiang will house 30,000 sows on its 11-hectare site by year-end, producing as many as 840,000 piglets annually. That will likely make it the biggest, most-intensive breeding farm globally. A more typical large breeding farm in northern China would have 8,000 sows on about 13 hectares.

In Fujian Province, Shenzhen Jinxinnong Technology Co also plans to invest 150 million yuan (US$23.7 million) in two five-story sow farms in Nanping. Two other companies are building high-rise hog farms in Fujian as well, according to an equipment firm involved in the projects.

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