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China tourists all for Sabah pork
Published on: Friday, April 19, 2019
By: David Thien

Kota Kinabalu: Sabah’s frozen seafood are among popular “take-home” purchases by visitors going home to their nearby countries.

Now Sabah’s pork meat products on sale are noted to be sought after by China tourists, whether they cook for meals at the Airbnb rented homes or to bring home.

Locals hope that as China tourists buy pork back to China due to the outbreak of African swine fever in China, Vietnam, etc, the local price of pork would not increase like the prices of varieties of durian have over the years due to China tourists demand.

“But the prices have certainly increased as even local Bak Kut Teh and pork noodle soup fans lament the rising prices even though GST was zero-rated, the menu prices hiked.”

This was confirmed by one Lim, a pork butcher and meat seller here at Foh Sang, attributing to the rising costs of rearing pigs from feeds to minimum wage hikes and greater demands from rising population or customers.

China tourists noted that Sabah suffered no reputational costs for fake or toxic foodstuff as the State is not a producer of such adulterated or contaminated food although the pork meat may be influenced by growth hormone and antibiotics.

China’s Ministry of Agriculture, the authority in charge of virus control, has announced 113 reported cases of the disease so far, including two in last March, seven in February and five in January, a significant fall from 21 in December and 25 in November, 2018.

It was reported that the African swine fever a deadly pig disease spreading through China kills most infected pigs within 10 days, although it isn’t known to harm humans.

China, home to the world’s largest hog herd, has reported 112 outbreaks of the highly contagious disease in 30 provinces and regions since last August. 

Getting rid of the disease and rebuilding the pig herd in China, a nation that consumes half the world’s pork, will take three to five years, according to experts.

Supply shortages and possibly higher prices caused by the disease would also affect Chinese consumers, for whom pork is a staple meat.  

In the medium term, China will need to import more pork and other meats. As a result, American pork exports will probably jump 20 per cent this year, while European Union shipments could climb 10 to 15 per cent, but frozen foodstuff are not as popular as fresh meat.

African swine fever, first spotted in Africa in the 1900s, caused China to cull more than a million pigs after 122 outbreaks in 30 provinces. The disease shows no signs of abating, and China tourists enjoy their stay here eating various pork meals. 

Some China tourists find the prices of pork products here cheaper.

Pork production in China probably will decline about 30 per cent this year, a drop roughly the size of Europe’s entire annual supply, according to Rabobank with a presence in Labuan F.T., a top lender to the agriculture industry.  

The number of breeding sows in China already slumped 21 per cent in March from a year earlier, according to a report by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs of China published last Friday.

According to China government, the virus has spread to all provinces apart from Tibet, Xinjiang and its southern island Hainan, just seven months after the first case was confirmed last August.  

Rabobank says it will take at least three years to five years to rebuild the herd. Informa’s Agribusiness Intelligence is betting on three years, while brokerage FCStone expects at least five years.

The industry’s dismal outlook is most likely to push prices higher and trigger inflationary pressure for pork, a Chinese staple, in the world’s largest pork market.

For China’s policymakers, stabilising the price of pork - the main driver of food prices - is critical as it is the most watched indicator for China’s consumer price index (CPI), and a fundamental factor in keeping social harmony.

Sabahans hope that the imported inflation pressure from China tourists hiking up demand far beyond some local supply chains can handle would not badly aggravate the prices of pork further, besides hoping that the disease would not spread here.

If Australia could be affected by the outbreak of African swine fever being an island continent, so could Borneo geographically due to yet to be discovered means.

The US Department of Agriculture said it will add more dogs to sniff out illegal pork products at airports and seaports in an effort to keep out the contagious hog disease that has spread across Asia and Europe.  

The virus has also been detected in Mongolia and Vietnam, neighbours of China, according to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations.

Beijing has ordered all slaughter houses to conduct bio-checks for the virus starting on May 1 to prevent any contaminated pork meat from entering the market or scraps of pork from being used as pig feed. However, question marks remain over whether the significant drop in reported African swine fever cases is a result of effective controls or local authorities becoming increasingly reluctant to report new outbreaks.

The World Organisation for Animal Health declined to comment on the possibilities of under-reporting. The organisation said that it “does not make public comments on rumours around the different animal diseases.”

However, it continued that it “analyses all the factual circulating information and develops an active search for non-official information” relating to human and animal health.

Nevertheless, pig farmers, pork suppliers, butchers and sellers in Sabah are happy with the boom time for their sweet meat protein.

 



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