China's getting ready to welcome the year of the pig and lunar new year is usually boom time for pork. However, many pig farmers have nothing to celebrate this year. China's hog herd has been hit by a deadly disease with no vaccine, named African swine fever. It doesn't affect humans, but since last year, its swept across China.
Pork is a trillion dollar industry there and the country's preferred protein. So to stop the flu, Beijing's culled nearly a million pigs and banned moving them outside infected provinces. Han Yee runs small pig farm in one of those regions. His herd wasn't infected, but he says Beijing's efforts to stop the flu have crippled his livelihood.
The hog travel ban means he can't get his pigs to market.>>
> I won't be celebrating Chinese New Year then while other people are celebrating. It's not easy. It's so difficult. I can't afford to die and I can't afford to live too. My children need to go to school.
Everything costs money. Teachers won't allow it if we're one yuan short.>> Since last August, Han's racked up more than $40,000 of debt as prices for his pigs dropped to their lowest in a decade. Han is not the only one feeling the pain. Tens of thousands like him are now ready to quit pig farming altogether, as Reuters Hallie Gu explains.
>> Some pig farmers I talked to said they would go work in the city to make money after the Chinese new year. They currently owe a lot of money to the feed sellers, and they have a big family to support. Even if the pig prices come back up, some of them said they will not go back into pig farming.
>> Beijing's measures to tackle African swine fever also favor larger, more industrial pig farms. They're seen as better equipped to fight diseases with higher hygiene standards. And for many years, Beijing's wanted to speed up the industrialization of farming across China. That means this Chinese new year that welcomes the year of the pig may also mark the decline of smaller players like Han Yee.