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Last Updated: Tuesday, 29 May 2007, 12:31 GMT 13:31 UK
China vows action on pork crisis
Pigs in China
Almost a million pigs have fallen prey to blue ear disease
The Chinese government has said it will take urgent steps to keep pork affordable, following big rises in the price of the staple meat.

China is the world's largest consumer of pork, which is used in many traditional dishes.

But widespread disease and the rising cost of raising live pigs have pushed up prices, fanning fears of a broader surge in inflation.

Beijing's credibility rests on Chinese economic stability, analysts say.

High consumer prices were among the grievances behind the student rebellion in Beijing's Tiananmen Square in 1989, which ended when the Chinese army stormed the square, killing several hundred people.

The Chinese government under Premier Wen Jiabao has striven to keep inflation low, as the wealth gap widens between the prosperous coastal cities and the countryside.

Pig cull blamed

Mr Wen highlighted the government's priority of stabilising the pork market without harming farmers' incomes during a visit to a supermarket in Xian, the capital of Shaanxi province, at the weekend.

The price of pork there has risen from 14 yuan ($1.80; 92p) to 17 yuan within a few days, state media report. In Shanghai, wholesale prices have hit 16 yuan - the highest in 10 years.

The spiralling prices have been blamed on the short supply of healthy pigs amid an outbreak of blue ear disease, or Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome (PRRS), which has led to a massive cull and discouraged farmers from breeding the animals.

The dearer cost of corn used for pig feed has also fed through to retail prices.

Mr Wen called on local governments to introduce relevant measures to help calm the situation, such as giving subsidies to pig farmers and increasing feed supply.

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