China faces long-term African swine fever effects

HOUSTON, Texas — African swine fever is hitting China with a vengeance and it could be a decade before the effects of the deadly virus are brought under control.

“This is potentially the worst animal health crisis of the modern world,” said Don Close of Rabo AgFinance at the International Livestock Congress held in Houston Feb.2 7-28.

China announced positive diagnoses of AFS last August and the government imposed stop-movement orders for hogs and pork but the disease is still spreading. Most pigs are raised in China’s northern provinces while most of the pork is consumed in the south.

Pork values escalated by 30 percent in the south while live prices in the north have plummeted. Other meat prices are also expected to rise because pork substitutions and imported meats cannot fix the supply gap of one to two million tonnes, said a report from Rabobank released in February.

It is estimated 25 to 30 percent of breeding hogs could be eradicated. If hogs are depopulated in key hog-producing areas, it will take a long time to replace breeding stock as well as market hogs.

Pork consumption is dropping and as production drops due to ASF, there could be a supply gap of one to two million tonnes for this year.

One possible cause was unofficial trading of goods from Vietnam and Hong Kong. The government arrested a number of meat smugglers last year.

Chicken is the big winner in China arising from the impacts of ASF.

“Beef has the potential to be a big winner in this but it will be a very slow process,” Close said.

Beef consumption in China is around nine pounds per person and the cattle herd inventory has been declining since 2000.

Chinese intends to be self-sufficient in poultry and pork, but admits it cannot supply its population with domestically grown beef.

China imported about one million tonnes of beef last year, according to Rabobank. Brazil is the leading supplier.

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