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Pork prices reach 10-year high amid epidemic

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- In anticipation of shortages following the devastation wrought by the outbreak of a porcine diarrhea epidemic (PED) since last October, pork prices reached a 10-year high of NT$82.31 per kilogram at the end of Monday's auctions.

According to the National Animal Industry Foundation, pork prices on Monday surged markedly, with the per-kg wholesale price of freshly slaughtered pork reaching NT$82.31, and NT$79.88 for frozen pork, vastly exceeding the post-Chinese New Year holidays' seasonal averages ranging between NT$60 and NT$65 per kg.

Meanwhile, vying to capitalize on anticipated shortages, importers have been observed raising shipping volumes of frozen pork from the U.S., said the Council of Agriculture (COA). The COA estimates that between 30,000 and 70,000 tons of pork imports are expected to arrive toward the middle of this month.

On the status of the ongoing epidemic, the COA stated current domestic production output is more than capable of covering demand, adding that shortages are not expected until June or July. While it is still too early to act in anticipation of shortages, pork import volumes from the U.S. have been increased to allay the public's concerns, said the COA.

Surging Prices the Result of Suppliers' Actions

Meanwhile, a Kaohsiung-based pork distributor yesterday stated that recent price surges are the result of the preemptive actions of the industry, with businesses and pig farmers reluctant to relinquish inventory in anticipation of shortages.

According to the distributor, pig farmers have been growing reluctant in producing scheduled deliveries amid weekly price surges. Per-100 kg pork prices surged NT$1,000 in the week of Feb. 26, said the distributor, adding that the number of pigs auctioned off in the beginning of March declined to 902 from the 1,030 sold at the end of last month. A pig farmer stands to gain an additional NT$100,000 per delivery of 50 pigs with a week's delay amid current price surges, said the distributor.

The Agriculture Bureau of Kaohsiung City however stated that of the estimated stock of 300,000 pigs being raised by 870 pig farming operations in the area, about 4,000 piglets have been claimed by the epidemic, while stating that the outbreak is nearing containment.

Incidentally, the police at Neipu, Pingtung yesterday stated that they have ramped up patrols in an effort to deter theft of piglets, which are currently valued at NT$1,950 each. The police also stated that certain agricultural goods seeing recent market price hikes include bananas, lemons and pineapples.

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 US manufacturing activity picks up in February after slow January 
Pork distributors gaze worryingly at rapidly rising prices yesterday at a pig market auction. Pork prices have been steadily rising to a 10-year high, despite the Council of Agriculture's announcement that piglet casualties in February, have declined since January amid the ongoing porcine diarrhea epidemic, as suppliers hoard stocks in anticipation of shortages. (CNA)

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