Beijing is stepping in to urgently try to curb a surge in Chinese pork prices, including taking the rare step of offloading frozen supplies stashed by the state. The cost of China's favorite meat has skyrocketed to record highs, and as Graham Mackay reports, that could have serious social consequences.
China's favourite source of protein has got the government squealing... A serious pork shortage has sent prices rocketing to an all time high - up nearly 40% from a year ago... And there's not a lot Beijing can do about it. (SOUNDBITE) (English) REUTERS CORRESPONDENT, JESSICA YU, SAYING: "So while pork is not a huge political issue in China - at least ostensibly - it is a big factor in keeping consumers satisfied, and therefore a very big social stability issue. If pork prices continue to soar the way that they have been, then there are going to be more mounting frustrations among daily consumers here in china. Already online we're starting to see some users complain about the high pork price. At the root of the problem - Chinese farmers holding pigs back from the slaughterhouse as they try to rebuild herds which were wiped out during widespread culling two years ago when prices were plummeting. Tough new environmental measures brought in by the government have also forced many small pig farmers to shut up shop. Now, Beijing is doing everything it can to bring prices back down - even taking the rare step of offloading pork reserves stored by the state... (SOUNDBITE) (English) REUTERS CORRESPONDENT, JESSICA YU, SAYING: "So far as we know, the government is going to stick by this policy of releasing pork reserves, subsidizing supermarkets. But ultimately throwing a few pieces of bacon at the problem is not gonna solve the issue." With twice as much pork eaten in China than beef and poultry confined, the sky high prices are affecting hundreds of millions of ordinary people. And there's no sign of the pain letting up any time soon. Analysts say it could be as late as 2018 by the time process finally come down.