Pig feed in China has become contaminated with African swine fever (ASF) virus, sparking further fears about its potential spread across the country.
Major Chinese animal feed maker Tangrenshen Group reported on Sunday that feed produced by one of its units had been contaminated with the virus, according to the Reuters news agency.
This is the first reported contamination of feed supplies in China. In a statement to the Shenzhen Stock Exchange, the company said the disease was found in feed samples provided by its 51%-owned subsidiary, Bili Meiyingwei Nutrition Feedstuff.
The infected feed was discovered during inspections after an outbreak of ASF on a farm in Qingyang county located in the eastern Chinese province of Anhui.
The company said the origin of the disease remained unclear and the matter was still under investigation.
Following confirmation of the first recorded outbreak in early August, the virus has now reached most of China’s pig-farming regions and has been found in the north and south of the country. The authoririties have struggled to control and this latest development might help explain why.
Beijing earlier said many of the cases in Anhui were caused by feeding kitchen waste to pigs that was not properly processed to kill the virus. However, many industry experts have long suspected feed supplies could be contaminated with the disease, Reuters reported. The ASF virus is known to survive for weeks in feed ingredients like soymeal.
“I think buyers will be quite worried about purchasing feed from similar subsidiaries,” said Pan Chenjun, senior analyst at Rabobank.
She added that major pig producers are already worried about how to verify the safety of their feed supplies. “If there’s any contamination, it’s very difficult to control.”
Tangrenshen reported 2017 feed sales of 12.6 billion yuan ($1.81 billion). Like many Chinese feed companies, it has recently moved into pig farming and processing.
It acquired Bili Meiyingwei, also known as Shenzhen PREMIXINVE Nutrition Co. Ltd, from Belgian feed maker INVE Belgium in 2016, according to the report.
The company said the impact on its operations would be ‘relatively small’, with Bili Meiyingwei accounting for only 2.27 percent of the group’s net profit in the first nine months of 2018. But the group’s shares fell as much as 6.6% on Monday to 4.56 yuan ($0.66).
ASF has ravaged small pig farms in Anhui. The authorities had recently lifted restrictions in four cities there after no new cases were reported for six weeks until the weekend when a fresh outbreak was discovered on a farm with 8,339 pigs in Qingyang county in the south of Anhui.