China’s pig disease outbreaks cast pall over recovery
China’s farm ministry is touting a complete recovery in pig numbers from the ravages of African swine fever by the middle of this year. Fresh outbreaks of the virus and other lethal pig diseases could pose risks to that outlook.
A resurgence of African swine fever cases in colder northern provinces prompted farmers to slaughter more of their breeding sows before the Lunar New Year, said Lin Guofa, a senior analyst at consultancy Bric Agriculture Group.
Other viruses, such as foot-and-mouth disease and porcine epidemic diarrhea, have also taken their toll in outbreaks exacerbated by a harsher-than-usual winter, Lin said.
It means that as much as 15 percent of the national hog herd might have been lost to disease over the winter, and its full rehabilitation to pre-African swine fever levels is more likely by the second half of next year, said Wang Zhong, chief consultant at Systematic, Strategic & Soft Consulting Co.
Stabilizing the pig population and reducing market volatility had been a high priority for policymakers ever since African swine fever descended on China’s hog herd, the world’s largest, in 2018.
Global agricultural markets have been roiled further in the past few months by the Chinese government’s drive to deliver a rapid recovery in numbers, which has led to massive shortages of feed grains and emptied silos as far afield as North America.
China’s hog population had returned to 90 percent of its normal levels by the end of November last year, the Chinese Ministry of Agriculture has said.
Efforts to speed up the release of imported meat held at ports and in cold storage, estimated at about 1 million tonnes, should help keep a lid on pork prices, Lin said.