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China's African swine fever epidemic could raise global meat prices

Of those, 15,000 were killed by the virus. The other 5,000 were destroyed as a precaution.

"It was a few pigs a day, it was hundreds," said Sun, a farmer and agricultural entrepreneur from Hebei province, China. "In the end, 800 pigs would be in a single day."

African swine fever (ASF) is decimating China's pork industry, by far the biggest in the world. Dutch bank Rabobank, which lends to the global agricultural sector, estimates the country's pig population could shrink by a third in 2019 – up to 200 million animals – through a combination of the disease and culling.

To put it in context

 An photo of one of Sun Dawu 's pig farms in March 201[ads1]8, prior to the epidemic.

The virus is harmless to humans but deadly to pigs – and so far, there is no cure or vaccine. Originating in Africa, outbreaks were recorded in eastern Europe and Russia before it first appeared in China last August

It has since spread to other Asian countries, including Vietnam and Cambodia.

In March, the Chinese government said it had a "good control" of the epidemic. At a press conference last month, Beijing said ASF was not spreading as quickly as before.

According to the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), China's central authorities have taken the right steps to bring the virus under control.

"They've done everything they could do to control the disease. They had a plan, they had a strategy, they were responding very vigorously," said Vincent Martin, the FAO representative in China.

 Virus prevention teams working at Sun Dawu's pig farm after the outbreak, which killed more than 15,000 animals by March 2019.

Farms wiped out

But the scale of the outbreak may be bigger than officials estimate, as some farmers say CNN that the disease is not always recognized locally. 19659002] Sun said initial testing by provincial officials that his Hebei farm was negative for ASF. However, he posted pictures of the dead animals online, the country's Disease Prevention and Control Center, and confirmed that they were carrying the virus. The official cause of death was a regular swine flu.

"The local officials were afraid to be accountable," she told CNN. "They were threatened that there would be consequences if we reported to higher-ups in the government. They are afraid of losing their jobs because of this."

CNN has contacted authorities in Hebei for comment but has not received a response.

 Pig farmer Zhang Haixia cries over an empty pen after release all animals to African swine flu in early 2019. cries over an empty pen after release all her animals to African swine flu in early 2019.

Martin, from the FAO, warned that it could take years before the outbreak was completely contained.

"I'm not sure we can say it is under control because we know how complex the disease is, "he said." We have experience in other countries where it took years to get on these diseases. "

Not enough pork in the world

One of the main problems China faces in containing ASF is that its pig industry is fragmented. Martin said there are thousands of small farms that may not have the correct bio-security measures needed to control the spread of the disease.

Another complication is that the virus can survive in pork products for months, meaning it can be reintroduced into

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And it's not just producers who are hurting. The epidemic could also have a broader economic impact: China is the world's largest consumer of pork, a staple for the majority of its 1.4 billion people.

According to government forecasts, the price of pork could rise to record levels in the second half or 2019, as demand overwhelms supply.

Analysts say there is not enough pork in the world to cover China's expected shortfall and consumers

Rabobank's report predicts an "unprecedented" shift in global protein supply to China to cover the shortfall.

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