Saturday, May 18, 2013

Shutting Pig Farms to Ease Pollution

This blog has reported on water quality problems created by pig farms in China. In 2010, the Ministry of Environmental Protection called attention to livestock pollution and Shandong Province issued regulations restricting hog farms. Pollution from livestock has gotten more attention recently and its control was included in the 2011-15 five-year plan. Over the past year, the communist party has quietly been mobilizing local authorities to close down pig farms to address water pollution concerns.

In Guangdong Province communist party authorities have been carrying out a remediation campaign to close "scattered, small, and chaotic" pig farms. Party officials are being mobilized to participate, propaganda about pig farms is being disseminated, and pig farmers are required to sign clean-up agreements.

Last October, a village in Guangdong's Yongning Management District closed down a collective hog farm that was sited on the edge of a reservoir. The village communist party secretary said the village will lose income by shutting the farm but it will reduce water pollution and improve environmental quality, and "all the residents support it." Mr. Li, who rented land from the village collective to operate the pig farm, killed off all his pigs before last October's mid-Autumn festival and "hope[s] this will be an example to cadres and the general population in surrounding villages who are still raising pigs." The village party chief says they plan to plant fruit trees on the land.

In Xintang Town, all officials at the rank of vice bureau chief and above are required to take part in the hog farm remediation campaign and they have closed 385 hog farms with over 48,000 pigs to create "beautiful villages." Officials are advised not to let up after the campaign's completion to prevent farms from coming back. A TV news broadcast shows pig farms near Shenzhen being destroyed with sledgehammers.

In a town in Qu County in Sichuan Province, residents posted complaints online about their seriously polluted water. Muck and trash in the water were traced to some upstream pig farms and household waste disposal. Local officials plan to close the farms and move the pigs and stop people from throwing their trash in the water.

In Xinluo District in Fujian Province, 5,180 farms with 400,000 pigs in the Luojin River watershed were slated for closure in January. The reporter asked whether the closures would affect the city's pork supply. An industry official said there would be no problem because most of the local hogs supply pork to cities like Shenzhen, Hangzhou and Shanghai.

This campaign doesn't seem to be reducing the overall supply of pork.  Pork prices plunged during February to April due to a combination of weak demand and abundant supplies. The current "remediation campaign" is a crude means of forcing hog producers to bear the social costs of the pollution they create. It is also, in effect, part of a long-running hog industry consolidation process. There has been a surge of company investment in large hog farms since 2008, and farmers have mostly quit raising a couple pigs in their backyards, but there are still millions of individually-operated farms with dozens or hundreds of pigs. They are now being forced out, making room for company-operated farms with thousands of head.

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