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China’s pig farms clean up to beat African swine fever

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A hired hand feeds a sow which recently gave birth to a new litter at the Grand Canal Pig Farm in Jiaxing, in China’s Zhejiang province.

STR | AFP | Getty Images

A devastating outbreak of African swine fever that has killed millions of pigs in China is changing attitudes in a country where farm hygiene has often been seen as lax by international standards.

From farms to feed mills to transport, people involved in the pork industry say biosecurity has been tightened, with sales of disinfectants and truck cleaning washes booming as farmers try to fend off the virus.

Farm owner Ma, whose 4,000 herd pig farm was visited by Reuters last year, says she is disinfecting inside and outside pig barns every other day, instead of once or twice a week.

She has also invested in her own truck for delivering pigs to the slaughterhouse and bringing in feed supplies to try to prevent contamination.

“We don’t let other trucks come in. It’s safer to have your own truck,” Ma told Reuters by phone, adding that nobody is allowed to visit in case they bring in the virus.

The change in mindset comes as the disease — which is not harmful to people but kills almost all pigs it infects — has reached every province of the country. There is no cure and, importantly in changing long-term habits, no vaccine.

Official June data released this week showed China’s pig herd — the world’s largest at over 400 million head a year ago — has since shrunk by more than a quarter, although some industry insiders say the numbers may be far higher.

Standards of cleanliness on farms, many of which are small-scale, vary widely, say industry participants, while trucks that transport pigs, feed and other supplies are often not properly cleaned and disinfected between trips.

African swine fever, which spreads through blood, faeces, and other fluids, can last for months on farm surfaces or equipment that has not been properly cleaned.

“We see some significant step-ups in biosecurity measures. People are now recognizing that something needs to be done,” said Matthias Arnold, an executive at the Material Protection Products unit of German chemicals firm Lanxess, which sells a popular disinfectant.

Sales are booming

Sales of gluteraldehyde, a chemical proven to kill the virus, are up three or four times since last year, said Pan Yunping, general sales manager at Jiangsu Kangbat Biotechnology Engineering in China’s eastern Jiangsu province.

Demand for Belgian firm CID Lines’ Cid20, which also contains aldehyde, has more than doubled from last year, and the firm is unable to meet demand, said Niu Yufeng, China business development manager.

Use of cleaning products like detergents and water sanitizers is growing too, said Niu. Farms need to be thoroughly cleaned before disinfecting. Stricter measures are also in place in feed mills.

“Just moving through different spots in feed mills now you have to disinfect, change clothes, fill in forms,” said Jonathan Wilson, China manager at Alltech, a supplier of additives to feed makers.

“I never saw this during bird flu in 2013, this is a big improvement,” he added, referring to one of China’s worst disease outbreaks before swine fever. 

Large farms are installing more truck washes made by Germany’s Karcher or domestic rival Mellberg Cleantecs, said the firms, as well as drying stations for the disinfected vehicles.

Mellberg Cleantecs has also set up a joint venture to sell disinfectants and cleaners produced by Germany’s Envisal, while U.S. company Decon Seven Systems, is registering its hydrogen peroxide-based D7 product for the Chinese market.

Higher costs

There is still some way to go.

The government provides disinfectants to many small farms for free, but the improved practices are raising costs at a time when many farmers are already struggling with losses caused by the disease.

Analysts at Huatai Futures say additional costs of about 0.5 yuan to 1 yuan per half kilogram, or up to 220 yuan ($32) extra per pig, are needed for new biosecurity systems.

To save money, some smaller farms have been using cheap products like calcium oxide, also known as quicklime, which does not effectively kill the African swine fever virus, said Edgar Wayne Johnson, veterinarian at Enable Agricultural Technology Consulting, a farm services company.

Others like chlorine are effective against the virus but are unreliable because of their volatility.

“Some people are changing and some will go out of business,” cautioned Johnson. “Some unfortunately will take more than one punishment.”

Still, says Lanxess’ Arnold, habits are changing.

“If you’re saving on money for the right biosecurity protocols, you pay it off multiple times. This awareness and understanding in the market is increasing.”

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China warns US to stop wrong trade actions or face consequences

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China said on Saturday it strongly opposes Washington’s decision to levy additional tariffs on $550 billion worth of Chinese goods and warned the United States of consequences if it does not end its “wrong actions”.

The comments made by China’s Ministry of Commerce came after the U.S. President Donald Trump announced on Friday that Washington will impose an additional 5% duty the Chinese goods, hours after Beijing announced its latest retaliatory tariffs on about $75 billion worth of U.S. goods, in the latest tit-for-tat moves in their bilateral trade dispute.

“Such unilateral and bullying trade protectionism and maximum pressure violates the consensus reached by head of China and United States, violates the principle of mutual respect and mutual benefit, and seriously damages the multilateral trade system and the normal international trade order,” China’s commerce ministry said in a statement on Saturday.

“China strongly urges the United States not to misjudge the situation or underestimate determination of the Chinese people,” it added.

Trump’s latest tariff move, announced on Twitter, said the United States would raise its existing tariffs on $250 billion worth of Chinese imports to 30% from the current 25% beginning on Oct. 1, the 70th anniversary of the founding of the communist People’s Republic of China.

At the same time, Trump announced an increase in planned tariffs on the remaining $300 billion worth of Chinese goods to 15% from 10%. The United States will begin imposing those tariffs on some products starting Sept. 1, but tariffs on about half of those goods have been delayed until Dec. 15.

Trump was responding to Beijing’s decision on Friday night that it was planning to impose retaliatory tariff on $75 billion worth of U.S. imports ranging from soybean to ethanol. China will also reinstitute tariffs of 25% on cars and 5% on auto parts suspended last December.

The White House economic adviser said earlier in the week the Trump administration was planning in-person talks between U.S. and Chinese officials in September. It is unclear if the bilateral meeting would still take place.

The year-long trade war between the world’s two largest economies has roiled financial markets and shaken the global economy.

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Protesters march near Biarritz demanding action from G-7 leaders

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French activist Jean-Baptiste Redde, aka Voltuan (R) holds a placard reading ‘stop climate crime’ next to a demonstrator dressed as a traditional Basque shepherd, during a march in Hendaye, south-west France on August 24, 2019, to protest against the annual G7 Summit attended by the leaders of the world’s seven richest democracies, Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States.

GEORGES GOBET | AFP | Getty Images

Thousands of anti-globalisation and environmental activists joined yellow vest protesters and Basque separatists on Saturday near the French coastal resort of Biarritz to demand action from G7 and other world leaders set to meet there.

Protesters converged on the nearby town of Hendaye on the French border with Spain to protest against economic and climate policies pursued by the world’s leading industrial nations and to promote alternatives.

“The top capitalist leaders are here and we have to show them that the fight continues,” said Alain Missana, 48, an electrician wearing a yellow vest — symbol of the anti-government demonstrations that have been held in France for months.

“It’s more money for the rich and nothing for the poor. We see the Amazonian forests burning and the arctic melting. The leaders will hear us,” he said.

Fires are devastating large swathes of the forest which is considered a vital bulwark against climate change.

Protesters waved banners for causes ranging from gay rights to Palestine, but their messages were aimed firmly at the leaders of the United States, Germany, France, Britain, Canada, Japan and Italy who are set to begin three days of talks on Saturday.

“No to the G7. For another world,” one banner read. “Heads of state the Amazon is burning. Act now,” said another.

The protesters marched under bright-blue summer skies from Hendaye to the town of Irun, Spain, some 30 km (18 miles) south of the G7 venue Biarritz.

More than 13,000 police officers, backed by soldiers, are guarding the Biarritz summit site and police had feared that anarchist groups might have tried to derail Saturday’s protest, which has been billed as a peaceful, family event.

Four police officers were lightly wounded on Friday after protesters fired a homemade mortar near the anti-G7 counter summit in Hendaye. Police arrested 17 people for hiding their faces.

There was no immediate sign of any radical groups on Saturday and the police presence was light.

Protesters came from all parts of France and beyond including from across the border, where Basque separatists were also keen to show their solidarity.

“The counter-G7 demonstration is in this Basque region and we want people to see we are part of it,” said Alfredo Akuna, a 46-year-old engineer from San Sebastián who wore traditional Basque clothing.

“We’re involved in many movements including anti-capitalism and anti-fascism so it’s important to be here to show that.”

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EU will retaliate if US imposes tariffs on France over digital tax

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The European Union will “respond in kind” if the U.S. imposes tariffs on France over digital tax plan, Donald Tusk, president of the European Council said on Saturday.

Speaking at the G-7 leaders meet in Biarritz in France, Tusk said if President Donald Trump uses tariffs for political reasons then it can be risk for the whole world, including the EU, Reuters reported. 

Earlier on Saturday, Trump criticized the French digital tax aimed at big U.S. technology companies and threatened again to retaliate by taxing French wine.

Speaking to reporters at the White House before leaving for a Group of Seven summit in France, Trump said he is not a “big fan” of tech companies but “those are great American companies and frankly I don’t want France going out and taxing our companies.”

“And if they do that … we’ll be taxing their wine like they’ve never seen before,” he said according to Reuters.

France passed a 3% tax in July that targets roughly 30 big tech companies including Facebook, Amazon and Google. The levy applies to companies with more than 750 million euros ($830 million) in annual revenues from “digital activities,” including 25 million euros ($27 million) from within France.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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