A deadly virus has killed half of China's swine population. This is a big problem for a country whose standard meat is pork. As prices soar, the government tries to induce farmers to raise more pigs.
But an enterprising farmer has a better – or at least bigger – idea: to raise giant pigs.
A farm owner in southern China is raising a pig weighing 500 kilograms (about 1,100 pounds) – over which a black rhino weighs – reports Bloomberg. That compares to an average slaughter weight of between 110 and 125 pounds, according to the report. And the farmer in question is not alone with this strategy: as Bloomberg details, a large number of large pig farms are increasing the size of the pigs they are raising.
Heavier pigs translate into heavier profits, of course. But, thanks to African swine fever, which started killing pigs in August 2018, even delicate pigs are good business right now.
Pork prices have risen 47% since last year and are expected to rise further. "As China produces and consumes more than half of the world's pork, it cannot rely on overseas supply," Capital Economics analysts said in a recent email to Quartz. By early 2020, prices could be 80% higher than in early 2019, they add.
More worryingly, initiatives to boost production could exacerbate the crisis, explains Ernan Cui, an analyst at Gavekal Dragonomics, a Beijing-based research firm.
By setting recent subsidies for virus-hit farms below market prices, the government encourages farmers to keep outbreaks and slaughter their herds, Cui said in an email last month. The policy adheres to local authorities the subsidy law, further discouraging disclosure. This will make the spread more difficult to contain and will grossly underestimate the scale of the epidemic – problems that even Brobdingnagian pigs cannot solve.