US may benefit from China's deadly pig disease

BEIJING - An outbreak of a deadly pig disease that has sent pork prices sky-rocketing in China is under control, although there were still not enough doses of vaccine to meet demand, agriculture officials said Thursday.
calendar icon 24 August 2007
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Pork is the staple meat in China, by far the world's largest pork producer. Blue ear pig disease and other factors such as a cyclical shortage in stocks and higher feed costs have sent prices soaring nearly 86 percent this year.

Larry Pope, chief executive officer of Smithfield Foods Inc., said the problems in China may force the country to import more meat.

"Their problem could be the size of our whole production, which means if they have to solve even a part of that it could be enormous," Pope said Thursday on a conference call with analysts. The Smithfield, Virginia-based company raises about 18 million pigs a year.

Smithfield is in talks with Beijing-based China National Cereals, also known as Cofco, about more export orders for U.S. pork, Pope said. "We have been having a very substantial conversation with them about some sizable shipments even this fall and winter into China," he said. No deal has been reached.
Pork exports by Smithfield totaled 540 million pounds in the fiscal year that ended April 30.

High pork prices helped push China's inflation to 5.6 percent in July, the highest monthly rate in a decade.

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