UPDATE 1-China Dec hog slaughter surged, sow herd also high - ministry
BEIJING, Jan 18 (Reuters) - China's hog slaughter surged by 18% in December from the prior month, and was up 7.3% on the year before, an agriculture official said on Wednesday, underlining the large pressure on prices that plunged last month.
China's hog farmers had expected both demand and prices to rise in December ahead of the Lunar New Year holiday that starts on Saturday.
Demand has been muted, however, due to a surge in COVID cases across the country. Farmers, many of whom had raised pigs to heavier weights to benefit from anticipated price rises, rushed to slaughter their animals before the slow season begins after the holiday.
Average live hog prices have dropped for 11 consecutive weeks to 16.3 yuan ($2.40) per kilogramme in mid-January, lower than the breeding cost of 16.7 yuan, Zeng Yande, chief agronomist and director of the development planning department at China's agriculture ministry, said during a press briefing.
Zeng warned farmers could face losses after the holiday. The government will organise pork purchasing for state reserves to help support prices, he said.
China's sow herd also ended 2022 slightly higher than reasonable levels at nearly 44 million, he added.
"We also hope that the majority of farms will stabilize the number of high-quality reproductive sows and take early measures to deal with the downward price of pigs," said Zeng. ($1 = 6.7806 Chinese yuan renminbi) (Reporting by Ella Cao and Dominique Patton; Editing by Jacqueline Wong and Eileen Soreng)
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