FILE PHOTO: A labourer feeds piglets at a farm on the outskirts of Suining, Sichuan province April 27, 2009. REUTERS/Stringer

BEIJING (Reuters) – China’s agricultural ministry confirmed on Friday the first outbreak of deadly African swine fever in the southwest province of Sichuan, the country’s top pig-producing region, raising the likelihood of a major impact to pork supplies in coming months.

The outbreak was found on a farm of 40 pigs in Yibin city, in Sichuan’s southeast.

This is the 18th province or municipality to have reported an outbreak of African swine fever since the highly contagious disease was first detected in China in early August.

Sichuan produced almost 66 million pigs for slaughter last year, according to official data, more than any other province.

Sichuan provincial authorities last week issued a regulation banning the import of all live hogs and hog products from other regions in a bid to keep the disease out.

Yibin is close to Sichuan’s borders with Chongqing municipality and Guizhou province, both of which have already reported outbreaks.

There is no cure and no vaccine for African swine fever, and the virus can survive for weeks in pork and animal feed.

The case in Sichuan comes less than three months ahead of Lunar New Year celebrations in early February that mark China’s peak demand period for pork.

Reporting by Dominique Patton and Muyu Xu; Editing by Michael Perry



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