Monday, September 30, 2019

Guessing at China's Pork Supply

China's wholesale pork price in the third week of September was up 81 percent from a year earlier, according to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs (I calculate 71 percent). That's much stronger than the 47-percent rise reported recently by the National Bureau of Statistics.
Source: China Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs. 

It's hard to discern the actual pork supply and demand situation in China because the country's news media are crammed with reports about farmers regaining confidence, the government's "good" and "effective" policy measures, and obediently chanting the mantra, "restoring production capacity and stabilizing pork supply," in obedience to Vice Premier Hu Chunhua's orders to "manage public opinion" regarding pork supplies given a month ago.

In a speech to a Dalian corn industry conference this month, a Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences researcher remarked that China's pork industry had experienced an unprecedented loss of production capacity that he estimates to be 20 percent, or 10 million metric tons. He notes that there are a wide range of estimates and the reduction in production capacity varies widely from province to province. The researcher estimated that consumption of pork is down 11-12 percent, due to fears of disease and its high price. He said many of his acquaintances have stopped eating pork.

Data from the Ministry of Agriculture's feed industry association for the first half of 2019 revealed that production of feed for piglets and sows dropped 25 percent from a year earlier while compound feed for finishing hogs was up slightly. This breakdown of feed for different stages of pig production is never reported to the public, but the sharp decline in piglet and sow feed and is consistent with the impacts of the disease on breeding and multiplier farms. The increase in feed for finishing hogs may reflect a shift from on-farm mixing of feed to purchase of manufactured feed from reputable companies to avoid risk of getting the ASF virus from corn or wheat bran from infected regions. Feed output for meat- and egg-producing poultry increased by double digits, and feed for ruminants went up 4.9 percent.

China industrial feed production, 
first half 2019
Type of livestock
year-on-year change

1000 metric tons
  Finishing hogs
Layer poultry
Meat poultry
Source: China Feed Industry Information Net.

A Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs propaganda article cited a 2.2-percent rebound in piglet feed production during August--the first increase in 5 months--as a portent of a pork supply rebound. The volume of 1.46 million metric tons, however, was well below the monthly average of 3.1 mmt this blogger calculates from the data for the first half of the year.

In a separate speech to the Dalian corn conference, a grain logistics specialist from northeast China estimated that ASF has reduced corn use for swine feed by 30 to 40 million metric tons this year, twice as much as they had estimated at the beginning of 2019. He sees a 5-7 million metric ton increase in poultry feed partially offsetting the decrease in pig feed demand. This speaker discerned a bottoming-out of pig inventories in August, with possibly a tiny increase in September.

Vice Premier Hu Chunhua repeated his proclamation that restoring pork production is a "major and urgent task" during his inspection of farms and slaughterhouses in three provinces last week. Hu issued another exhortation to ensure pork supplies for the new year holidays and called for officials to fight to restore pork supplies to normal next year.

This will be difficult to accomplish, even if there are no more major outbreaks of ASF or other diseases. It takes about 14 months to raise a pig to maturity (including the gestation period), and it will take one or two generations to rebuild grandparent and parent breeding herds before normal supplies can be restored.

Thursday, September 19, 2019

China Hog Companies in an Expansion Race

China's hog-farming companies posted steep year-on-year declines in sales last month--more evidence of China's shrinking pork supply--but they are also in a race to expand production capacity by building huge hog complexes of 500,000 head or more.

Reports issued by China's three biggest publicly-listed hog-farming companies showed their combined sales of 2.17 million head during August 2019 were down 39 percent from August last year. Wens Corp. sales were down 34 percent from a year ago, Muyuan's sales were down 37 percent, and Zhengbang's sales were down 29 percent. Sales for the entire year from January to August were more robust due to large sales in the first half of the year.

Wens and Muyuan both said their plunge in August sales was due partly to holding back sows for breeding and keeping hogs on feed longer to take advantage of high prices. Wens' monthly hog sales were at a record level this year until they plunged in August to the lowest volume in the last 5 years. Wens adjusted its swine sales target for 2019 to 20 million head--down from 22.3 million last year and 20 percent less than the target set at the beginning of the year. Muyuan has not changed its target sales for the year, but it will be hard to achieve at the current rate of monthly sales.

Wens, Muyuan, and Zhengbang are the leaders of the top-20 hog-farming companies that are leading what the Ministry of Agriculture calls a "transformational upgrade" of the hog sector that was long dominated by small family-operated farms. Most are privately-operated, several began as bootstrap ventures raising a few pigs or birds, and most are listed on stock exchanges in China. Only COFCO and Guangxi's state farm company are state-owned. While the top companies are expanding rapidly, their combined sales of 68.5 million head last year accounted for less than 10 percent of the industry's production last year.
Top 21 pig farming  companies, production in 2018

CompanyMillion head
3Zhengbang Sci-tech5.54
4New Hope3.10
8Hubei Xiangda2.20
12Shuangbaotai (Twins)1.45
13Shanghai Guangming1.40
17Dekang Nongmu1.00
19Shanxi Daxiang0.94
20Guangxi State Farm Yongxin0.80
National output, 2018693
 Share of national output9.9%
Source: China hog industry summmit forum, February 2019.

Hog-farming companies had generally poor financial results in the first half of 2019. Biosecurity investments, higher spending on feed and personnel, and facilities for manure handling and bioenergy production (presumably methane gas produced from hog waste) are raising costs, but industry analysts think Chinese hog-farming companies returned to profitability in the second quarter of 2019.

With prices soaring, each company's profitability now depends on how many pigs it can produce. This is setting off what pork industry analyst Feng Yonghui calls a new "pig super cycle."

Soaring "pig concept" stock prices are funding aggressive expansion by listed companies. Many have announced intentions to build huge new breeding-farming-slaughter projects. A representative of Zhengbang company said the "severe challenge" of ASF crisis gives "the best opportunity to win for the strong."

During a visit to a Wens Corporation breeding farm director Wen Zhifen pledged to carry out Vice Premier Hu Chunhua's directive to restore pork supplies by producing 70 million hogs to account for 10 percent of the market supply by 2020. Wens announced a 1-billion yuan investment in a million-head hog project in Liaoning Province.

Shuangbaotai (Twins) Co. announced a plan to build a series of 4800-head model sow farms in a Yunnan Province county that potentially could supply 1 million hogs annually.

Last December, Muyuan announced plans to raise 3.5 billion yuan for a 4.75-million-head expansion of hog farming projects this year. In August Muyuan announced a plan to spend 120 million yuan to set up subsidiary companies in six hog-producing counties.

Feed company New Hope--also engaged in poultry--was the only top hog-producing company that had healthy profits in the first half of the year. New Hope identified hog production as its "strategic transformation initiative" and set a target of producing 25 million head by 2025. New Hope has announced ambitious swine investment plans:
  • 3.75 billion yuan in a 2.5 million head project in Lanzhou
  • 980 million yuan in two projects in Hebei Province totaling more than 1.1 million head
  • a 7500-head breeding project in Shandong Province
  • a 2-million-head hog project in Anhui Province
  • 483 million yuan in a 500,000-head breeding-farming project in Henan Province, including a 3000-head grandparent farm and an 18,000-head multiplier farm
  • a 500,000-head breeding-farming-slaughter project is under construction in Guangxi Province's Laibing prefecture, and additional projects totaling 600,000 head are planned in other cities.
Also in Guangxi Province, Zhengbang has 6 farming projects under construction with investment of 3 billion yuan and plans to build 10 additional projects in the province with investment of 5 billion yuan. A Zhengbang spokesman said the company has a 3-million-head expansion plan focused on Guangxi.

Less prominent companies are also getting into the act. Liyuan Grain and Oils Group--headquartered in Guilin--is collaborating with a Danish partner on a planned 3600-head great grandparent and grandparent farm that will be the nucleus of a million-head breeding system in Guangxi.

While it sounds like big companies about to replace small farms, most of these plans still rely on recruiting cash-strapped individual operators to fatten hogs. Muyuan is one of the few companies that actually conducts the entire hog-raising process on company farms. Most of these projects use a "company + farmer" model that supplies piglets from company-operated breeding farms to individual farmers who fatten hogs to slaughter weight in their own barns. (A few companies are experimenting with models that maintain company ownership of hogs raised by contractors, but such arrangements are still not that common in China.) Farmers will still need to invest in biosecure farms and manure treatment facilities. New Hope has experimented with giving farmers financial services but most farmers will struggle to come up with funds for start-up costs as well as working capital.

Not all companies are thriving. The no.-7 company, Chuying--the first hog-farming company to be publicly listed in 2010--had its stock suspended when it fell below 1 yuan per share. In 2018, Chuying ran into severe financial problems, tried to pay off bonds with hams, and reportedly had pigs starve when it couldn't pay for feed.

Monday, September 9, 2019

China's Large Farmers Abandon Land

China's new scaled-up farmers are losing money and abandoning rented land, according to recent reports from Chinese journalists. Liaowang reported that rice farmers in Fujian and Hunan Provinces lost money every year and cut back on leased land or switched to growing turf, tea, bamboo, or nursery crops. Another Liaowang piece reported on the same problem in northern provinces Shandong, Heilongjiang, and Henan. Economic Reference News interviewed farmers and village and provincial officials in Anhui Province and found that many "large grain farmers" (产粮大户) who lost money growing wheat on land leased from village collectives have tried to renegotiate multiyear land rental contracts, cut back on land rentals, or simply ran off and disappeared when they were unable to make ends meet.

Both articles said declining grain prices and rising costs and inability to mitigate risks from bad weather make farming unprofitable for large-scale farmers. Most of China's farmers are small-scale producers who cultivate small plots of 1 or 2 acres allocated to them by village collectives using mainly their own labor. Large-scale farmers rent consolidated plots of dozens or hundreds of acres and pay rent to collectives who pay out dividends to villagers. Farms also often hire villagers as laborers and pay them wages. While traditional small-scale farmers have modest cash expenses, the large-scale farmers have rent and wage obligations that must be paid in good years and bad.
An actively cultivated rice field on the left and an idle field on the right.
These land-leasing arrangements are often depicted by officials as a panacea for scaling up farming in a way that benefits both the farm producers and villagers who receive rent and wages. However, Economic Reference News emphasizes the high cost of rents. A farmer in northern Anhui who said he rents 300 mu (about 49 acres) at an exorbitant 1000 yuan/mu ($865 per acre) to grow winter wheat followed by summer corn. The wheat price has fallen from 2400 yuan/metric ton in 2013 to 1600 yuan this year, but the village collective that "owns" the land won't accept a reduction in rent. He wants to give back 160 mu.

Another farmer in Chuzhou prefecture lost money three years in a row growing rice and wheat on 710 mu (117 acres) of rented land and wants to cut back to 530 mu this year.

Rents are very high in many places. An Anhui Province survey in three districts earlier this year found averages of 1,200 yuan/mu in Hefei, 1,000 yuan in Bangbu, and 1,400 yuan in Fengyang.

One farmer reportedly ran off and left rice unharvested on 300 mu, with unpaid bills for rent, fertilizer and pesticide.

A farmer explained that the wheat from 1 mu can be sold for 800 yuan in a "normal" year. Production costs of 500 yuan and rent of 200 yuan ($173 per acre) leaves a net return of 100 yuan per mu--in a normal year. However, last year he was able to sell his wheat for just 500 yuan and this year 600 yuan, so he lost money on every mu of land he planted in each of the last two years.

An official in Anhui's Tianchang district says local policy encourages farmland transfers, and 61.7 percent of the cropland in this district has been transferred to large farmers. He also said that large farmers have lost money since 2016 and acknowledges that problems of land abandonment and disappearing farmers are common.

In Hunan Province, a large-scale rice farmer said he cut back from 1500 mu last year to 1200 mu this year. He claims to belong to a WeChat group of large rice growers--including one with a national reputation--that are all cutting back on their land rentals.

The problems are causing discord in the countryside. A farmer in northern Anhui said villagers gathered to block a wheat combine from harvesting 1000 mu she rented from their collective. The farmer said she hadn't been able to make any money since 2014 and lost her entire crop last year due to heavy rains. She said villagers, fertilizer dealers, and bill collectors all came to the field trying to collect her 2 million yuan in debt and unpaid bills.

[Anhui did have heavy rains at harvest time in 2018 that severely damaged the quality of its wheat; this year a bigger harvest depressed the price.]

Officials in several districts of Anhui said land abandonment by large farmers led to "conflicts", including villagers petitioning for "justice" to collect unpaid land rents. Township and village officials complain that the problem falls into their laps when large farmers run off without paying their rent.

Liaowang worried about degradation of soil fertility when large-scale rice growers shift their land to growing turf, tea, bamboo, and nursery crops. These crops use fertilizer and other chemicals more intensively than grains, tend to cause hardening of the soil, and each crop of turn harvested removes a layer of soil with it and carries it away.

Liaowang claims abandonment of grain land and requisitions of land for development are not captured by grain statistics because local authorities fudge their reports to higher-level authorities and there are no local land management officials to verify the statistics. Some land has been reported separately by agricultural and forestry officials as being planted in both grain and tree crops. Many localities kept their grain land nominally constant by declaring land on mountainsides as new farmland.

It's common for Chinese entrepreneurs to jump from one kind of business to another. Many took up farming after making money in construction, real estate, trucking or other businesses. One official criticized the large-scale "farmers" for plunging into agriculture to take advantage of government "awards" that were not enough to make the business profitable. Without much experience in farming, they moved on after losing money.

The nurture of a new generation of scaled-up farmers is a key component of plans to "modernize" Chinese agriculture. The National Bureau of Statistics recently noted the vitality brought to agriculture by new-type farm operators as an achievement to be celebrated on the country's 70th anniversary. Two years ago, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural affairs aimed to have a supporting policy system in place by 2020, but this article suggests that the policies are not in place yet.

Very similar reports of difficulties faced by large-scale grain farmers circulated several years ago and also called for more and better subsidies. Three years ago, the Ministry of Agriculture introduced regulations for farmland transfers to prevent practices that "violate farmers' rights" and threaten "harmonious society", such as corrupt backroom land deals and shifting of land from grains to nongrain crops.

The reporters blamed falling rice prices, rising fertilizer prices, lack of irrigation and drainage facilities, lack of farm credit, and restrictions on land use that prevent large farmers from building worker dormitories, grain drying units, and sheds to store machinery. Economic Reference News calls for even more spending on construction of "high standard agricultural fields"--already China's largest agricultural expenditure, more availability of special insurance products like income and production cost insurance, expansion of provincial government loan guarantees, mechanisms to approve changes in land use, and mechanisms to prepay rent that would discourage "large farmers" from running off with bills unpaid.

A commentary on the phenomenon asks how land abandonment can be happening with more and more subsidies for agriculture but nevertheless recommends even more subsidies. However, the commentary concludes by insisting that "relying on subsidies isn't enough" but doesn't offer a clear solution.

Thursday, September 5, 2019

China Pork Customers Disappear as Prices Rise

Ten pork vendors at a food market in China's Jinan city sat idly staring at their phones with no customers in sight during a reporter's visit on September 1. A vendor manning a booth sponsored by the Jinluo meat company explained that customers had largely vanished recently as pork prices had nearly doubled. He quoted prices ranging from 28 to 30 yuan per 500g, over $4 per pound.

Two customers asking about prices walked away shaking their heads when told a price of 26 yuan. A vendor told the reporter that his sales had fallen from 250 kg to 150 kg per day since prices had risen. Smaller vendors had seen steeper drops in sales from 50 kg to 15 kg per day. Another vendor said the profit margin had also shrunk from 0.5 yuan per kg to .15 yuan per kg.

A commerce bureau official explained that many farmers had killed off their sows during 2018 when prices fell below the cost of production. The northeast and northern plain regions had the steepest decline in production capacity. A farmer in Shandong Province said that farmers began liquidating their herds in August 2018 when African swine fever began spreading in the province. The peak consumption season during a string of holidays from September through February is putting upward pressure on prices now.
Weekly average prices reported by China Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs.

In Shenzhen on Sept. 3-4, retail prices for lean pork were 30 yuan per 500g. At a wholesale market, 25-kg boxes of frozen lean pork sold for 16-17 yuan/500g. Frozen pork bellies were about 15 yuan/500g. The reporter explained that frozen pork being sold now was produced before prices started rising and prices are less sensitive to market conditions than fresh pork prices. In a Shenzhen supermarket, a customer complained to the butcher counter attendant that the pork prices were unaffordable, but she eventually left with a small slice.

The attendant told the reporter that many customers would rather buy beef or chicken if they have to pay these prices, but prices of beef and chicken are also rising.

In Liaocheng, a small city in Shandong Province, retail pork sales during January-July were down 31 percent from a year earlier according to local commerce officials. However, sales of beef, mutton, and poultry doubled in Liaocheng, and overall meat sales were up 20 percent.

In Nanning, capital of Guangxi Province, authorities opened discount-price pork shops in ten food markets around the city. The temporary shops, opened this week, sell lean meat, bacon, hindquarters, and ribs at a price 10-percent below the recent 10-day average. Local residents may purchase up to 1 kg.

According to 21st Century Business News, the number of carcasses arriving daily at Beijing's Xinfadi wholesale market has fallen from 2400-2500 per day to 1700-1800. Some vendors said the volume of pork in their market has fallen by half.

With prices rising rapidly, farmers are holding back their hogs as long as possible before sending them to market. The average weight of a dressed carcass (without offal, head or skin) has risen from 35-45 kg to 45-60 kg.

A slaughterhouse in Shaanxi Province has seen its volume shrink rapidly. Although it has contracts with farmers to supply, say, 500 head, they will only give him 200 or 300.

Some farmers are taking advantage of high prices. One 44-year-old farmer in Henan Province with 18 years of experience raising pigs stocked his farm with 7000 piglets in May that he expected to fatten to 110 kg for slaughter in September. Many farmers, however, are worried about African swine fever and the high costs of biosecurity measures.

Monday, September 2, 2019

Vice Premier: Pork Shortages Must Not Spoil the Party

Chinese officials are worried that a 10-million-ton pork shortage could spoil upcoming communist party celebrations, according to a transcript of a speech ordering local officials to bolster pork supplies. In fact, the speech's instructions to "manage public opinion" and constant shifting of priorities of the communist regime suggest the celebrations may ring hollow anyway.

As the country's year-old African swine fever epidemic began to send pork prices into the stratosphere this summer, the government's rhetoric gradually shifted from admonitions to stop the spread of the disease to pronouncements that the disease is "under control" and commands to restore "normal" production and trade. On August 20-21, Premier Li Keqiang visited food markets and chaired a State Council meeting that adopted "more detailed policies and an attitude of urgency" to cope with the pork supply crisis.

On August 22, Vice Premier Hu Chunhua told communist party officials to prioritize the rebuilding of pork production capacity and preservation of pork supplies as an important "political task." The full transcript posted on a pork industry site warned officials that widespread pork shortages could occur during the upcoming moon festival, National day, New Year, and spring festival holidays if they fail to take measures. Shortages would affect the "happy and peaceful atmosphere" during the upcoming 70th anniversary of the Peoples Republic, the vice premier said. Furthermore, Hu warned that a gaping hole in the pork supply and unaffordable pork for low-income people would impair the image of the communist party in 2020 when the "well-off society" is scheduled to be achieved.

Most Chinese news media posted only the 3-paragraph summary of the Vice Premier's remarks that omits these admonitions. The full transcript--apparently an internal communication addressed to "comrades"--was posted only on social media. The full transcript is a surprisingly candid assessment of problems and shortcomings in the pork sector that are kept hidden in documents for the public.

Vice Premier Hu's remarks included a number of items that rarely appear in government-approved documents for public consumption:
  • The ASF virus is now endemic in China (在我国定植).
  • According to Hu, unannounced investigations found large numbers of dead pigs where no disease had been reported, indicating that the actual number of ASF cases exceeds the number reported.
  • Hu acknowledged that China's pork supply situation will be "extremely severe" during the 4th quarter of this year and first half of 2020
  • The Chinese government estimates that the country will have a 10-million-metric-ton deficit in pork supply this year.
  • Premier Hu said the projected 10-mmt deficit exceeds the amount of pork traded in international markets.
  • Monthly estimates of swine inventories by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs are based on monitoring of 4000 pig-raising villages and 13,000 scaled-up farms.
  • With its short production cycle, poultry will be the main substitute relied upon to fill the deficit. China will struggle to increase poultry production by 3 mmt this year, Hu said.
  • After years of prioritizing control of manure pollution by closing or moving farms, local officials are now accused of over-zealous enforcement and are ordered to pare back zones where livestock farms are banned and pay for re-building hog farms. 
  • Hu acknowledged that there hasn't been much progress in cleaning up manure pollution 
  • Local leaders in pork-producing regions have been asking for slaughterhouses to be built in their counties because subsidized pig farms generate no tax revenue and pigs are mostly trucked off to cities for slaughter. This pattern is said to "unsustainable," and trucking pigs around the country is acknowledged as contributing to the spread of disease.
  • Hu acknowledged chronic weakness and under-funding of grassroots veterinary services.
Hu Chunhua recommended numerous policy measures to stabilize production and maintain market supplies of pork. Provincial and local officials are responsible for implementing these policies:
  • Pork farms and companies are to be given short-term aid.
  • Banks must not cut off lending to swine farms and slaughterhouses; subsidized loans should be given to swine farms. Provincial government loan guarantee organizations should prioritize recovery of swine farms.
  • Poultry companies should also be given aid to expand.
  • Each province is charged with maintaining a degree of self-sufficiency in pork. The mayors' market basket system will hold city officials accountable for supplying pork and other nonstaple foods to their citizens. 
  • Pork reserves should be expanded and made more effective.
  • Pork-deficit provinces and cities are to form long-term pork supply agreements with neighboring pork-surplus provinces and counties to establish contiguous regions self-sufficient in pork.
  • Officials should work out arrangements by which wealthy cities pay pork-producing counties to support their farms and infrastructure.
  • Land and credit should be set aside to build slaughter facilities in pork-producing counties.
  • 2 billion yuan in food subsidies for low-income people have been announced.
Previous announcements targeted aid to large-scale farms, but the State Council's August 21 circular extended support to household-operated farms and removed a minimum requirement of 15 mu (1 hectare) of land for a farm to receive support. 

Vice Premier Hu wrapped up his address by emphasizing two points that are distinctive features of the communist regime:
  • "We must strengthen the guidance and management of public opinion."
  • "Stabilization of production and maintaining supply are an important political task."
In China's economic model, government officials are the "directors of the play" and "companies are actors on the stage." It follows that officials have privileged access to information so they can pull the strings to organize the play. Hu reflects this duality by goading officials to "apply force on internal matters" and "in external matters do well on propaganda, issuance of information, and managing public opinion" (italics added). In the same vein, Hu advised statistical bureaus to increase the frequency of "confidential" or "secret" surveys so the government can devise timely support measures. In other words, Chinese statistics are internal information for the government's use; statistics are only released to the public after being massaged and molded into a propaganda statement.

The vice premier's remarks reveal a contradiction regarding information gathering. Like an angry schoolmaster, Hu Chunhua chided local officials for not reporting of disease to central authorities and promises they will be punished for doing so. While he is aghast that local officials withhold information from him, the Vice Premier seems to have no problem withholding information from the public. Hu believes information released to the public must be carefully managed to shape their opinion. The public cannot be trusted with information because they might panic and hoard pork or try to corner the market. (And of course, government officials would never do this themselves.)

Management of public opinion is evident from a comparison of Premier Hu's speech with a Peoples Daily propaganda article. While Premier Hu warned officials about an impending shortage of pork and potential market instability, Peoples Daily quoted a Ministry of Agriculture official who declared that "The overall meat supply is assured" and "the pork market is overall stable." Premier Hu told officials they face a long, difficult battle against ASF, but articles intended for the public declare that the disease is under control and normal production and marketing can now resume. 

The elevation of promoting pork production as a "political task" reveals the constantly changing crisis-driven priorities kicked down to local officials. Efforts to control manure pollution are an example of the constant oscillation of "political tasks." Policy pronouncements in the last two months have included vague admonishments not to go beyond legal requirements in designating zones where livestock farms are banned or limited. These refer to a an ongoing tug of war over efforts to clean up pollution from pig manure in a rapidly urbanizing society. The first livestock law in 2005 included a provision that called for each community to designate zones where livestock farms would be banned,  limited or encouraged. Livestock farms would be restricted near residential areas, institutions of higher education, drinking water sources, markets, roads, and scenic areas. This idea was rarely implemented until 2013 when a water pollution prevention action plan issued by the state council called for designating such zones by the end of 2017 and destroying or moving farms from zones where they were banned. 

In 2017, the Ministry of Agriculture issued a document criticizing local officials for being overzealous in designating farm-ban zones--although the examples they gave seem consistent with language describing the zone designation going back to the 2005 livestock law. Two years later, facing a pork shortage, officials now seem to have decided the Ministry of Agriculture is right by ordering local officials to scale back the pig-ban zones and rebuilding pig farms that were demolished. In his teleconference, Premier Hu also seemed to admit that little had been done to promote treatment and utilization of pig manure although it was a feature of the 2016-2020 plan for the swine sector. Environmental control seems to have been pushed aside as a priority now that there's a pork supply crisis.