A disease in pigs is currently spreading across China. The government is desperately trying to keep a lid on things however news about it is leaking out.
This reduction in pork supply is pushing the price upwards. The average price of pork in June was 74.6% higher than at the same time 12 months ago.
Called Blue Ear Disease (also known as Porcine Respiratory and Reproductive Syndrome), it has killed thousands of pigs across China. So far this month there have been outbreaks recorded in 11 provinces. This year there have been outbreaks found in 22 provinces, not bad for a country with only 23 provinces, 5 autonomous regions and 4 self-governed municipalities.
News reports are bringing patchy and sometimes contradictory information about what's going on. Some reports claim a few thousand pigs have died, others claim that the disease has killed over 1 million animals in 2007 alone. The most common numbers are that 40,000 - 50,000 animals have died due to the disease. Some reports claim that the disease does not affect people whilst other reports claim that 35 people have died already and China is on the verge of a human pandemic. Officially, the disease is 'under control'.
China is a strange country. Just recently the US complained to China about some imported foods being contaminated. What was the response by the Chinese government? To ban the import of pork and chicken's feet from a few selected companies from the US back into China! It may seem childish but it shows in a small way just how much political weight China is gaining on the world stage.