BEIJING (Reuters) – China’s hog prices are set to rise ahead of the Lunar New Year holiday in February as outbreaks of African swine fever hit supply, the country’s agriculture ministry said on Friday.

The world’s top pork producer has been grappling with the rapid spread of the disease, which can be deadly to pigs but is not harmful to humans.

Hog prices are expected to climb ahead of the festival as the replenishment of herds by some farmers in major production areas has been affected in the past two months, said Tang Ke, the head of the market and economy information department under the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs.

However, he added that price increases would be limited as overall hog production in China remained “sufficient”.

Chinese appetite for pork is usually strongest during the winter and over the Lunar New Year, when families get together for large meals to celebrate the nation’s most important holiday.

China has reported almost 40 separate outbreaks of African swine fever in 10 provinces and municipalities since its first case in early August, leading to the slaughter of almost 50,000 animals.

Efforts to control the disease’s spread have included banning transport of live hogs from a large swathe of the northeast, which typically trucks as much as a fifth of its pigs to other regions each year.

That has pushed up pork markets in areas such as the eastern province of Zhejiang, where prices in recent weeks have been around 18.32 yuan ($2.64) per kg, compared to the national average of 14 yuan, according to numbers provided by consultancy China-America Commodity Data Analytics.

“The price hasn’t softened after many days, so that means the supply issue is still there,” said Pan Chenjun, an analyst at Rabobank.

That has been stoking demand for imported pork, she said.

(Reporting by Hallie Gu and Dominique Patton; Editing by Christian Schmollinger and Joseph Radford)