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

  • Hun Sen: Full country reopening to be decided in two weeks

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has announced that if the Covid-19 situation remains stable for 15 consecutive days from the end of the October 5-7 Pchum Ben public holiday, Cambodia will reopen fully, albeit in the context of Covid-19 whereby people have to adjust their lives to

  • Cambodia sets new Covid-19 quarantine rules

    The government has modified Covid-19 quarantine requirements, shortening the duration for, among others, Cambodian officials, foreign diplomats and delegations, investors and inbound travellers in general. According to an official notice signed by Minister of Health Mam Bun Heng late on October 16, quarantine length for Cambodian

  • Cambodia unveils new quarantine regulations

    The government has modified Covid-19 quarantine requirements, shortening the duration for, among others, Cambodian officials, foreign diplomats and delegations, investors and inbound travellers in general. According to an official notice signed by Minister of Health Mam Bun Heng late on October 16, quarantine length for Cambodian

  • Will Evergrande change the way Chinese developers do business in Cambodia?

    China’s property sector policy has exposed the grim financial condition of real estate developers including those operating in Cambodia, which raises questions over the viability of their projects and business going forward The dark blue netting draping over one of Yuetai Group Co Ltd’

  • Phnom Penh governor: Show Covid-19 vaccination cards, or else

    Phnom Penh municipal governor Khuong Sreng late on October 5 issued a directive requiring all people aged 18 and over and the parents of children aged 6-17 to produce Covid-19 vaccination cards when entering schools, markets, malls, marts, eateries and other business establishments that have been permitted

  • Cambodia seeks probe into 'false reports' on Hun Sen's alleged Cypriot passport

    Minister of Justice Koeut Rith on September 6 wrote a letter to his Cypriot counterpart Stephie Dracos requesting cooperation in investigating and providing the truth in relation to the "exaggerative and false allegations" that Prime Minister Hun Sen holds a Cypriot passport. In his letter, the