In many parts of China, farmers have long used pigs as a primary means to convert kitchen refuse and farm residues into meat for sale or consumption and manure for the fields. While pork counted for almost 66 percent of the meat consumed in China, small farmers raised more than 85 percent of China's hogs in the 1980s and the 1990s. Despite its value and importance, household pig farming is now declining rapidly. Although pork prices kept rising in 2008 and the government offered subsidies to stimulate swine production, the number of rural households that raised pigs dropped by 50 percent nationwide. In some poor regions, only about 35 percent of rural households still raised pigs. Why are so many farmers giving up pig farming? What specific help do farmers need? In this article, based on fieldwork in a rural village in Southwest China, I analyze five socioeconomic impediments to household pig farming. I also discuss the policy implications of this case study and highlight what policy makers and development agencies can do to help farmers revitalize their pigpens.
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