In a farm deep in the southern region of China lives a very big pig that is as heavy as a polar bear.
The 500kg animal is part of a herd that is being bred to become giant swine. At slaughter, some of the pigs can sell for more than 10,000 yuan (US$1,399), more than three times higher than the average monthly disposable income in Nanning, the capital of Guangxi Province, where Pang Cong, the farm’s owner, lives.
While Pang’s pigs might be an extreme example of the lengths to which farmers are going to fill China’s swelling pork shortage problem, the idea that bigger is better has been spreading across the country, home to the world’s most voracious consumers of the meat.
High pork prices in the northeastern province of Jilin is prompting farmers to raise pigs to reach an average weight of 175kg to 200kg, higher than the normal weight of 125kg.
They want to raise them “as big as possible,”said Zhao Hailin, a hog farmer in the region.
The trend is not limited to small farms either. Major protein producers in China, including Wens Foodstuffs Group, the country’s top pig breeder, Cofco Meat Holdings and Beijing Dabeinong Technology Group have said they are trying to increase the average weight of their pigs.
Big farms are focusing on boosting the heft by at least 14 percent, said Lin Guofa, a senior analyst with consulting firm Bric Agriculture Group.
The average weight of pigs at slaughter at some large-scale farms has climbed to as much as 140kg, compared with about 110kg normally, Lin said.
That could boost profits by more than 30 percent, he said.
The large swine are being bred during a desperate time for China. With African swine fever reducing the nation’s hog herd — in half, by some estimates — prices of pork have soared to record levels, leading the Chinese government to urge farmers to boost production to temper inflation.
Chinese Vice Premier Hu Chunhua (胡春華) said that the supply situation would be “extremely severe” through the first half of next year.
China would face a pork shortage of 9 million tonnes this year, more than what is available in global trade, meaning it needs to increase production domestically, he said.
During a recent visit to major livestock provinces of Shandong, Hebei and Henan, Hu urged local governments to resume pig production as soon possible, with a target of returning to normal levels next year.
Still, many farmers are wary about restocking swine after being hurt by an earlier outbreak.
Also, piglet and breeding sow prices have surged, making it more expensive for backyard farms to afford rebuilding their herds. Increasing the size of pigs they already own might be the next best step.
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