Over half of China’s massive pig herd is threatened due to the rapid and unabated spread of African swine fever throughout virtually every province in the world’s most populous country.
According to Rabobank, between 150 million and 200 million of China’s 360 million-strong pig population are likely to succumb to either the disease itself or be culled in efforts to control outbreaks. China, which produces around half the world’s pork, stands to lose much of its capacity, driving domestic demand for meat and suppressing imports of animal feed.
Reuters quoted Justin Sherrard, Rabobank’s global strategist for animal protein, as saying that the situation was “unprecedented” and “still not fully understood” due to the Chinese government’s tight control of information.
African swine fever is a highly contagious viral infection with a high mortality rate, and no cure has been developed. It is not known to be dangerous to humans.
The first outbreaks of the disease in China were reported in Heilongjiang Province, near the Russian border, last August. It has since spread to every province except Hainan, an island region off the country’s southern coast.
According to the Chinese agricultural ministry, China’s stock of pigs has fallen by 16 percent since last year.
Russia has been struggling with African swine fever for years, with many farmers being forced to cull their livestock. The disease has also spread to Vietnam and other countries in Southeast Asia, causing double-digit reductions of pork production there, according to Sherrard.
China’s pork production could fall to the lowest level in 20 years, based on government statistics. Prices have inflated dramatically, adding to social pressure in a country where disposable income is declining.
The crisis has caused increased Chinese imports of American pork to the highest point in six years, with demand outweighing political considerations in the ongoing U.S.-China trade war, Reuters reported.