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UPDATE 2-China pork output jumps 2.1 percent in Q1, pressuring prices

* Farmers sent more pigs to slaughter in first quarter

* Higher slaughter rate triggered by steep price decline

* Further price pressure expected - Ag ministry official
(Adds official's comments starting in paragraph 7)

By Dominique Patton and Hallie Gu

BEIJING, April 17 (Reuters) - China's pork output rose 2.1
percent to 15.4 million tonnes in the first quarter compared
with the period during the prior year, official data showed on
Tuesday, after farmers rushed to slaughter their pigs amid a
rapid decline in prices.

Live hog prices in China plunged by around 30 percent in the
first quarter, in one of the steepest declines ever recorded,
after a significant increase in production by new farms.

The falling price led some farmers to send more hogs to
slaughter amid worries prices would come under further pressure
later in the year.

The number of hogs slaughtered rose 1.9 percent to 199.8
million head, the National Bureau of Statistics said, while the
total herd declined by 1.2 percent to 415.2 million head.

China is the world's top producer of pork and its herd
accounts for more than half the global total.

In addition to expansion by large farms, heavy snow in
Eastern and Central China before the Lunar New Year holiday in
mid-February delayed the transport of pigs from the north to the
south, boosting pig supplies in the market after the holiday
when demand is typically much weaker, an official with the
Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs told reporters at a
briefing.

That escalated the fall in pig prices, which are set to
"remain at a low level" for much of the year, said Tang Ke,
director of the ministry's market and economy information
department.

"The whole pig farming industry has started to lose money,"
he said.

Prices might get some support as farmers begin to eliminate
some production capacity due to losses however, said Tang.

Including beef, lamb and poultry, total meat production in
the country reached 23.2 million tonnes, up by 1.8 percent, the
data showed.
(Reporting by Dominique Patton and Hallie Gu; Editing by Sunil
Nair and Christian Schmollinger)

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