It’s the Year of the Pig in China, but this member of the zodiac might be conspicuous in his absence. Pork prices are skyrocketing, an increase of 71.3 percent for live pigs in April alone. In China, which consumes 92 billion pounds of pork a year (that’s a fifth of a pound per person every day), this is a very big deal.

According to an article in the New York Times:

The crisis over pork prices in China, like the jolt many Americans feel when gasoline prices jump, offers one example of how prices can suddenly soar. The Chinese government is struggling to cope — including deliberating whether to sell a snuffling, smelly strategic reserve of hundreds of thousands of live pigs kept at special subsidized farms for precisely the shortage the country is now facing.

Am I the only one who thinks it’s pretty amazing that China has a special state-run pig farm, just to make sure no one has to go without his char siu bao?

The cause of this shortage is a combination of factors, including the rising cost of feed (exacerbated by ethanol production), unexpected disease outbreaks, and farm shutdowns due to last year’s low pork prices. The shortage has caused an increase in prices that is equally destructive, as butchers are unable to sell their meat at the higher rate. “I’ve lost 1,000 yuan in three days,” says a butcher quoted in the NYT piece, “because the meat goes bad before I can sell it.”

This is serious stuff in China; politicians are getting involved. “In a move to head off any protests among sometimes volatile student populations, the education ministry has ordered colleges and universities to subsidize pork instead of raising prices on campus.”

Smart folks. They know which side of their bread is buttered—I mean, larded.

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