China’s sow herd shrunk last month

China’s sow herd contracted 0.5 percent in July from the previous month, state media said, after a plunge in hog prices pushed many farmers to get rid of unproductive sows. | Reuters photo

BEIJING, China (Reuters) — China’s sow herd declined for the first time in nearly two years, contracting 0.5 percent in July from the previous month, state media said, after a plunge in hog prices pushed many farmers to get rid of unproductive sows.

In year-on-year terms, however, it was still up 25 percent, according to National Development and Reform Commission spokesperson Meng Wei.

Prices have plummeted in recent months amid an abundance of supply due to efforts by the world’s biggest pork producer to rapidly rebuild its breeding herd following a devastating epidemic of African swine fever during 2018 and 2019.

Farmers lost an average US$102 per head during June, according to agriculture ministry data.

An executive at the country’s largest pork processor, WH Group, told reporters the elimination of sows during June had been significant and could push up live hog prices by the second half of 2022.

The culling of low efficiency sows has improved the structure of the breeding herd and all high-performing sows were retained, state broadcaster CCTV cited an agriculture ministry official as saying.

China had 45.6 million sows as of the end of June, approximately two percent more than the end of 2017, the last year before the African swine fever epidemic. The ministry said this month it was aiming for a herd of 43 million by 2025.

Overall, China’s pig herd increased 0.8 percent in July from the previous month and was 31 percent larger than a year earlier, the country’s state planning agency said in a separate media briefing.

China’s pig herd totalled 439 million at the end of June, an agriculture official said recently, equal to 99.4 percent of the level at the end of 2017.

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