KAISARA WALTON WRITES — Every nation faces the challenge of keeping its food supply safe and healthy— especially China, the world’s fourth largest country by area, and the world’s largest by population, just below 1.4 billion. China can’t afford to lose livestock – but a United Nations (UN) report issued earlier this month shows this may be on the nation’s horizon.

The report addressed recent concerns regarding the spread of African Swine Flu (ASF). Pork is a favored meat in China and a booming industry for farmers, workers, factories and corporations. If the Swine Flu is not contained (it can survive extreme temperatures), it could kill off this major food supply and revenue source. China raises over 700 million pigs for food —half the world’s pig population—but there is as yet no vaccine or treatment.

The virus was first recorded in early August of this year in Liaoning province. Juan Lubroth, chief veterinary officer of the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization, said it is still in the early stages and “too early to tell” how fast the virus will spread. But he was not overly optimistic, adding that the entire Asian continent should “prepare for incursion.” Then China would be forced to confront huge problems of the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) legitimacy, government oversight and consumer protection.

Worse, the virus has created growing economic fears that could inflate pork prices. To this end, the CCP has designed a pork reserve to stabilize prices, but these measures have fallen short and the rate of inflation is its highest in 4 months.

Finally, such bad news does not look good on the international scene. Given the China-Africa Cooperation Forum formed in 2000 to improve Sino-Africa relations, who needs headlines associating the words “African” and “swine?” No wonder a representative from China’s Agriculture Bureau said the topic was “too sensitive” to discuss with media outlets.

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