BEIJING (Reuters) - China's southwestern province of Sichuan, the country's top pig-farming province, is removing some restrictions on hog production to stabilize supply after an epidemic of African swine fever reduced herds.
Sichuan produced more than 65 million pigs in 2017, according to official data, or more than 9% of the country's total, making it China's leading producer.
But many farms have been hit by African swine fever, an incurable disease that kills almost all pigs infected, which is still spreading through the world's leading pork market.
Sichuan's Department of Agriculture and Rural Affairs said in a notice on Monday it was setting 'red lines' for pig output in the province, with city mayors responsible for ensuring self-sufficiency of pork.
To achieve a provincial target of 40 million hogs a year, local authorities should promote standardized and modern farming, and support farms that produce 2 million hogs or more each year with integrated feed plants and slaughtering facilities, said the notice published on the department's website.
They should also remove any obstacles to projects under construction and allow them to be completed as soon as possible, it said.
The measures come after China's Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs said the country's hog herd had shrunk by almost a third since a year ago, and as national pork prices hit a new record.
Sichuan also plans to abolish the 1-hectare (2.5-acre) limitation on land use for pig raising and related facilities and allow for "reasonable use" of land to meet the needs of the pig industry, including permitting pig farms on some grades of protected forest land.
It also wants to promote areas with natural barriers that help raise biosecurity on farms.
Land planners should prioritize the construction of large-scale slaughtering facilities and the mergers and reorganization of slaughtering and processing enterprises will also be encouraged.
Beijing is trying to reduce the number of live pigs transported around the country, one of the main ways identified as contributing to the rapid spread of African swine fever in the country.
Sichuan also said it would encourage farms to introduce superior pig breeds from abroad as it tries to boost output, and added that small farmers will receive more support in improving biosecurity and in selection for breeding
(Reporting by Dominique Patton; editing by Christian Schmollinger)