* Drop comes as Beijing cracks down on farm pollution
* Hog prices have risen as govt has shuttered farms
* China is world’s top pork consumer
Oct 13 (Reuters) - China’s pig herd shrank last month at the fastest pace in almost two years, the Ministry of Agriculture said on Friday, the latest sign sweeping government steps to curb pollution have accelerated cuts in one of the nation’s critical farm sectors.
The hog herd in the world’s top pork consumer fell by 6.1 percent from a year earlier, the biggest percentage drop since January last year.
The sow herd was down 5 percent, the largest drop since March 2016. The government does not disclose the size of the herds.
Both sow and hog herds have registered a year-on-year drop each month since at least the start of 2016, but the pace of the decline has accelerated since July, as efforts to comply with new regulations gather pace.
In July, the pig herd fell by 4.8 percent and the sow herd by 4.2 percent, government records show.
Beijing has shuttered thousands of smallhold farms across the nation in a drive to impose tough new pollution standards by December, boosting hog prices and giving the country’s leading pork producers an unexpected boost.
China’s three-year campaign to clean up its farm sector requires each province to ban livestock production near water sources or major population areas. Farms in other areas must also meet high standards on treatment of animal waste.
China produces about 55 million tonnes of pork a year, or half the world’s supply. (Reporting by Josephine Mason; Editing by Mark Potter)