Over the past three years, the pig breeding industry in Chongqing's Rongchang district — a hub for China's animal husbandry — suffered the double whammy of COVID-19 and African swine fever, leading to drastic ups and downs in the market, according to Guo Ping, a pig breeder for over 16 years.
But she believes 2023 might be a good year, as the most recent round of COVID-19 has peaked, and pig diseases have been contained by advanced measures and biological technologies.
Guo's 30,000-square-meter pig farm — Xingwang Breeding Pig Farm — which mainly raises breeding sows and piglets, has a capacity of about 600 breeding sows. She estimated that at least 120,000 breeding piglets on the farm could be sold this year and the yearly revenue might range from 60 million yuan ($8.83 million) to 110 million yuan, depending on the market.
Pork plays an indispensable role in many Chinese people's diet, and the country accounts for over half of the world's pig population.
Rongchang, a border district in the west of Chongqing, is known as "China's animal husbandry science and technology city", and even has a breed of pig named after it — Rongchang pig.
Rongchang pig has strong adaptability and good disease resistance and meat quality, according to Zeng Zhu, deputy director of Rongchang Husbandry Development Center.
In 2013, the State Pig Electronic Market — the country's one and only digital livestock and poultry trading market — was established by the then-ministry of agriculture and the Chongqing government.
"The electronic market has realized nationwide buying and selling of pigs — covering 30 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities in China," said Qin Youping, deputy director of the National Center of Big Data for Pigs.
Moreover, it provided barrier-free access to information services, including indexes of national pork prices and breeding sows, and simplified trading. For example, pig trading with IOUs, an informal document acknowledging debt, is approved by the platform.
"China is a big country for raising pigs, but not a country with great strength in the industry," said Yang Feiyun, deputy director of National Center of Technology Innovation for Pigs. "Technically speaking, the hog industry in China has long been bothered by low raising efficiency, high cost, pollution as well as deadly diseases like the African swine fever."
To ensure the country's food security, as well as to break through the bottleneck of core pig breeding technologies and to gain a strong foothold in the world's pig breeding technologies, Yang's center was established in Rongchang nearly two years ago. It is the first of its kind in China.
Yang, an expert in animal nutrition who entered the industry over 30 years ago, has led 14 teams in the center for creating technological breakthroughs in pig breeding. Recently, he designed an antibiotic substitute, a safer ingredient used in pig feed, which has been applied by Techlex Group, an animal feed processing company based in Sichuan province.
Moreover, educational institutions including the Chongqing Academy of Animal Sciences, located in the district, and the Rongchang campus of Southwest University provide technologies and biological agents for preventing pig diseases like swine fever, foot-and-mouth disease and blue ear disease, also known as Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome, according to Guo.
Guo said February to April is the peak season for selling pigs in Southwest China — almost 90 percent of pig sales are accomplished during this period. And thanks to all these efforts, members of her cooperatives have healthy live pigs to sell for around 5,000 yuan for each pig.