African swine fever outbreak critical in China

Zach RelphCountryman
The African swine fever outbreak has slashed China’s pork stocks.
Camera IconThe African swine fever outbreak has slashed China’s pork stocks.

China’s pig toll has reached “critical levels”, according to a new report signalling the sweeping African swine fever outbreak will reshape global protein markets.

Agricultural banking specialist Rabobank’s latest ASF international update forecast China’s pork output to be slashed 25 per cent this year to about 36 million tonnes from nearly 47 million tonnes.

With every province infected since the swine disease was first detected in August last year, China’s pig herd is also expected to be cut in half from more than 400 million head to about 200 million.

Rabobank animal protein global strategist Justin Sherrard noted the country’s north and north-east, the regions first hit, were worst impacted due to slow reaction and weak biosecurity.

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Mr Sherrard said all other animal proteins had became pork substitutes and increased meat imports to China from other countries, including Australia, in the first half of this year.

“Beef exports to China have grown markedly — up more than 50 per cent,” he said.

“Argentina leads beef exports, followed by Brazil, Uruguay and Australia. All four countries have seen beef exports grow.”

Pork prices reached record highs in China last month as the ASF epidemic intensified, with future increased prices expected. On Monday, Mecardo reported Chinese pork prices had risen 10 per cent week-on-week to nearly 28 Chinese yuan/kg — or $5.82/kg — to mark a 89 per cent hike since January 1.

ASF has no known vaccine, but poses no risk to humans, and has already accounted for the deaths of more than 1 million infected pigs in China.

It has also led to the death of more than 50,000 pigs in Vietnam since February and since spread across South East Asia into Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar.

“It remains our view, that it will take years — at least five years — for herds to be rebuilt and for production to recover in the worst-affected countries,” Mr Sherrard said.

The ASF outbreak has pushed Australian beef exports into uncharted territory.

The latest Federal Government figures, released last month, show 114,965 tonnes of beef was exported from Australia in July — the highest total since July, 2015.

Meat and Livestock Australia reported beef exports totalled $9.49 billion for the 2018-19 financial year, a 19 per cent year-on-year hike.

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