China claims the number of fresh outbreaks of African swine fever in the country has dropped this year and pig production is slowly returning to normal, amid suspicions that the full extent of the disease is not being reported.
Reuters reported that vice minister of agriculture and rural affairs Yu Kangzhen said China had seen only 44 new cases in the first six months of 2019.
That brings the total number of cases China has reported since the first one in August 2018 to 143, with 1.16 million pigs culled, Mr Yu said.
However, many outbreaks are not being reported, farmers have told Reuters, with local officials in some provinces unwilling to verify the disease.
Reuters reported this week that as many as half of China’s breeding pigs have died from African swine fever or been slaughtered because of the spreading disease, twice as many as had been officially acknowledged.
Mr Yu said the government is currently checking online reports of alleged outbreaks of the disease, adding that any party not reporting a case would be severely punished.
“Our attitude is very clear: when it comes to under-reporting of the disease, though we can’t guarantee zero cases [are not reported], we will definitely have zero tolerance for it,” he said.