Chinese criminals have been exploiting the country’s African swine fever crisis by intentionally spreading the disease to force farmers to sell their pigs for a low price before smuggling the meat and selling it on as healthy stock.
State media has reported that Chinese criminal gangs are using drones to drop ASF-infected items into farms to infect pigs, according to the South China Morning Post.
Magazine China Comment, which is affiliated to state news agency Xinhua, said the gangs tried to spread panic among farmers to force them to sell their livestock at a discount rate.
Sometimes they spread rumours about the disease spreading in the locality and may even leave dead pigs on the side of a road to make farmers believe the infection is spreading.
Once they have bought the pigs, the gangs then smuggle the animals or their meat to other areas where prices are higher, despite a ban on transporting pork or livestock between provinces to control the spread of the disease.
The profit margin can be as much as 1,000 yuan (£107.08) per pig, so dealers have been stockpiling funds for bulk purchases.
In the southwestern province of Yunnan alone, authorities have already intercepted 10,000 live pigs, some infected with the virus, that were destined for other provinces.
The magazine said police believed that one gang had smuggled 4,000 pigs from the province in one day.