Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Swine fever sends Chinese pork prices, imports soaring

Swine fever sends Chinese pork prices, imports soaring

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
China’s pork industry has been left reeling from African swine fever, which has devastated its pig herd, sent pork prices soaring and forced the country to increase imports to satisfy demand – but analysts warn worse is yet to come. AFP

Swine fever sends Chinese pork prices, imports soaring

Pork prices have been sent soaring and herds devastated as African swine fever tears through China’s massive pig-farming industry, forcing the country to ramp up imports to satisfy demand – but analysts warn worse is yet to come.

More than 1.1 million pigs have been killed or culled so far as authorities scramble to contain a virus that has spread to neighbouring countries since the first cases emerged in August last year and for which there is no vaccine.

But the figure is widely believed to be much higher, as official data show China’s pig herd totalled 347.6 million in the first half of this year, down 60 million from the same period last year. Pork prices soared by a fifth last month alone.

“The worst is yet to come,” said Jan-Peter van Ferneij, who monitors foreign markets at the French Pork Institute.

“For now it’s the numbers [of pigs] that are falling. Then it will be production . . . and consumption will fall,” he said.

But swine fever does not affect humans – butchers have been seeking to reassure consumers that their meat is safe in the country that produces and eats more pork than anywhere else in the world.

“Look at this blue stamp,” said a seller at the Sanyuanli market in Beijing, pointing to the seal from health authorities showing that the pork is safe.

“Here’s the certificate that goes with it,” she said.

Standing in front of pork chops and ribs, Feng Shuyue recalled that people were “scared” of buying the meat last year, when the epidemic spread across the country.

“Today people are not afraid at all . . . because the [health] controls are very strict,” Feng said.

To meet demand, Beijing has increased pork imports, with shipments from the EU rising 37 per cent between January and April, according to European Commission figures.

Brazil has also become a big source of imports.

China is only importing frozen pork and the meat is going to larger cities, said van Ferneij.

Prices, meanwhile, could go up as much as 40 per cent in the next six months, according to a note by Nomura bank.

Authorities have sought to reassure the public.

Earlier this month, agriculture officials said production was “slowly recovering”, with 44 new incidences of fever detected over the past seven months, compared with 99 from August to December last year.

But the malady is far from over. Another outbreak was reported on Wednesday in southwest Sichuan province, with 21 pigs infected in a farm of 102 pigs.

An April report by Dutch financial group Rabobank said African swine fever was now affecting up to 200 million pigs, and the expected 30 per cent loss in pork production was almost a third larger than the annual US pork production.

Transporting animals across China has helped to spread the virus.

If trucks are not systematically disinfected, animals will come into contact with the disease as soon as they are transported, van Ferneij said.

Preventing the proliferation of the virus is complicated because there are many small, family-run pig herds in China.

African swine fever is particularly hurting these smaller operators, said Wang Xiaoying, a professor at the Rural Development Institute of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

Industrial producers are faring better “thanks to strict preventive measures”, Wang said.

MOST VIEWED

  • Omicron patients can stay home: PM

    The Ministry of Health has issued a directive on the treatment of people who have tested positive for the highly transmissible Omicron coronavirus variant, following a suggestion from Prime Minister Hun Sen on the night of January 21. The directive permits home quarantine for those who

  • The effects of the USD interest rate hike on Cambodian economy

    Experts weigh in on the effect of a potential interest rate expansion by the US Federal Reserve on a highly dollarised Cambodia Anticipation of the US Federal Reserve’s interest rate hike in March is putting developing economies on edge, a recent blog post by

  • Cambodia’s first ever anime festival kicks off Jan 22 at capital’s F3 centre

    Phnom Penh's first ever Anime Festival will bring together fans, artists, shops and other local businesses with ties to the Japanese animation style for cosplay competitions, online games, pop-up shops and more on January 22, with Friends Futures Factory (F3) hosting. F3 is a project that

  • Demining rat ‘hero’ Magawa dead at 8

    A landmine-hunting rat that was awarded a gold medal for heroism for clearing ordnance from the Cambodian countryside has died, his charity said on January 11. Magawa, a giant African pouched rat originally from Tanzania, helped clear mines from about 225,000sqm of land – the equivalent of 42

  • Hun Sen gets 4th Covid shot, urges compatriots to follow

    Prime Minister Hun Sen and his wife Bun Rany on January 14 received their fourth dose of Covid-19 vaccine and called on compatriots to follow suit as the Omicron coronavirus variant continues to spread in the community. This marks the launch of Cambodia's fourth-dose vaccination campaign,

  • Fourth dose Covid booster drive jabs 43K in two days

    In the first two days of the fourth-dose Covid-19 vaccination campaign, more than 43,000 people volunteered to get the jabs, while over 4.6 million people have received a third shot. Health ministry spokeswoman Or Vandine said that fourth-dose vaccinations, which began on January 14 exclusively with the Pfizer