In this May 8, 2019, photo, pigs stand in a barn at a pig farm in Jiangjiaqiao village in northern China’s Hebei province. Pork lovers worldwide are wincing at prices that have jumped by up to 40 percent as China’s struggle to stamp out African swine fever in its vast pig herds sends shockwaves through global meat markets. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)

In this May 8, 2019, photo, pigs stand in a barn at a pig farm in Jiangjiaqiao village in northern China’s Hebei province. Pork lovers worldwide are wincing at prices that have jumped by up to 40 percent as China’s struggle to stamp out African swine fever in its vast pig herds sends shockwaves through global meat markets. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)

China’s pig disease outbreak pushes up global pork prices

African swine fever doesn’t harm humans but is fatal and spreads quickly among pigs

Hong Kong retiree Lee Wai-man loves pork fresh from the market but eats a lot less now that the price has jumped as China struggles with a deadly swine disease that has sent shockwaves through global meat markets.

China produces and consumes two-thirds of the world’s pork, but output is plunging as Beijing destroys herds and blocks shipments to stop African swine fever. Importers are filling the gap by buying pork as far away as Europe, boosting prices by up to 40% and causing shortages in other markets.

“I’m a fresh-pork lover, but it’s too expensive,” Lee, 87, said as she shopped at a Hong Kong market.

African swine fever doesn’t harm humans but is fatal and spreads quickly among pigs. It was first reported in August in China’s northeast. Since then, 1 million pigs have died and the disease has spread to 31 of China’s 34 provinces, according to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization.

The outbreak’s scale is unprecedented, said Dirk Pfeiffer, a veterinary epidemiologist at the City University of Hong Kong.

“This is probably the most complex animal disease we have ever had to deal with,” Pfeiffer said.

China’s shortfall is likely to be so severe it will match Europe’s annual pork output and exceed U.S. production by 30%, industry researchers say.

“Everyone wants to import as much pork as possible,” said industry analyst Angela Zhang of IQC Insights. She said the trend is likely to accelerate as Chinese production falls.

That’s a boost for farmers in Germany, Spain and other countries with healthy pigs but hard on families in Southeast Asia and other poor markets that rely on pork for protein.

This year’s Chinese pork output might fall by up to 35%, according to Rabobank, a Dutch bank.

Global supplies will be “redirected to China,” the bank’s researchers said in an April report. It said the “unprecedented shift” in trade will likely cause shortages in other markets.

Grocery shoppers in Germany, Japan and other high-income markets grumble at paying more for kielbasa or tonkatsu, but short supplies are a serious concern in places such as Cambodia where pork is the only meat many families can afford.

Cambodia’s live hog price jumped 37% in the past six months, according to Srun Pov, president of the Cambodia Livestock Raiser Association. He said the country is buying about 30% of its daily needs of 500-600 tons from Thailand.

“Pork is important to us,” said Chhe Pich as a butcher weighed her purchase in the Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh. “Even though the current price is a bit high, I have to buy it to serve my family.”

The U.S. Department of Agriculture expects China’s pork imports to soar 41% this year over 2018 to 2.2 million tons. There’s no immediate end in sight as “evidence mounts that China will be unable to eradicate ASF in the near-term,” it said in a recent report.

The jolt to the global meat industry highlights China’s voracious demand for food for its 1.4 billion people, the potential for wider disruptions if its own production falters and its growing ability to outbid other customers for supplies.

African swine fever was first reported in August in China’s northeast. Since then, 1 million pigs have died and the disease has spread to 31 of China’s 34 provinces, according to the FAO.

Outbreaks have been reported in Cambodia, Mongolia, South Africa and Vietnam.

It’s been found among a small number of wild boars, which can spread the disease, in Russia and seven European countries.

Yang Wenguo, a farmer in Jiangjiaqiao, a village a two-hour drive northeast of Beijing, said he has lost 800 pigs. He now has a few dozen.

Most of Yang’s pens are empty. White pus drips from blood-shot eyes of one surviving hog. Foam drips from another’s mouth. Smaller pigs cough.

Yang dosed his animals with government-subsidized medications but they kept getting sick. The government hauls away dead animals and pays compensation of 1,000 yuan ($145) for a sow and 20 yuan ($3) for a piglet.

“You buy pigs, then they all die,” he said, walking on ground covered in disinfectant that looks like dirty snow. Only about 60 to 70 pigs remain from total herds of about 3,000 in Jiangjiaqiao.

Four other families in the village that raised pigs have stopped, Yang said, “No one can bear losing all the pigs they raise.” He’d like to sell his farm and find work in the city but no one wants to buy.

The USDA forecasts China’s total hog herd will shrink by 18% this year to 350 million animals, the lowest level since the 1980s.

In Hong Kong, authorities destroyed 6,000 pigs at one slaughterhouse after an animal imported from the mainland was found to be infected.

“More and more customers are switching from roast pork to other roast meat like chicken and duck,” said restaurant owner Siu Si-man.

Chinese authorities respond to outbreaks by temporarily banning shipments of pigs from any province where a case is reported.

That has caused retail prices to spike in big cities cut off from supplies. Prices paid to farmers have collapsed in areas with a surplus of pigs they can’t export.

A half-hour drive from Yang’s farm, Wang Lijun breeds his own piglets to avoid buying infected animals. His herd shrank from 160 to 170 animals to about 20 to 30 but none died this year.

“All farmers are cutting production,” he said, walking past a row of cages holding pregnant sows.

The number of sows needed for breeding had fallen 19% from a year ago by the end of February, which suggests supply will plunge through next year, the USDA forecasts.

“China’s herd-rebuilding will be slow and take years,” said Rabobank.

In Vietnam, the government said in mid-May that 1.2 million pigs, or about 5% of its total herds, had died or been destroyed. Rabobank expects Vietnamese pork production to fall 10% this year from 2018.

China’s biggest foreign pork supplier is Spain, which accounts for 20% of imports. Germany supplies 19.5% and Canada 16%.

Spanish exports of pork and other pig products to China jumped 32.8% in the first two months of 2019 from a year earlier to 117 million euros ($131 million), according to Interporc, a Spanish industry group.

“My suppliers have told me that they are going to raise prices at the end of the month because of what is happening in China,” said Jordi Nargares, a butcher in a working class neighbourhood of Barcelona.

U.S. pork sales to China have been disrupted by Beijing’s tariff war with the Trump administration over trade and technology.

Chinese buyers cancelled orders for 3,300 tons of American pork the week of May 6, according to the USDA.

Chinese companies are investing in farms and food processors abroad to capitalize on strong demand. New Hope Group, one of China’s biggest agribusiness groups, said it plans to invest 1.1 billion yuan ($170 million) in three pig-breeding farms in Vietnam.

READ MORE: Quebec festival cancels greased pig race that has drawn ire of animal activists

READ MORE: Officials want feral pigs stopped before they go hog wild

___

AP video journalist Alice Fung in Hong Kong and AP Writers Sopheng Cheang in Phnom Penh and Joseph Wilson in Madrid contributed.

Joe McDonald And Sam McNeil, The Associated Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Bentley resting on a bench at Kal Park in Vernon not knowing there is a baby rattlesnake curled up below. Bentley jumped down and was bit by the snake. (Facebook)
Dog bit by baby rattler at popular Vernon park

The rattlesnake was hidden underneath a park bench when it struck out

Kelowna flags were flown at half-mast after the discovery of a residential school burial site in Kamloops. (File photo)
Central Okanagan school board chair reflects on recent tragedies

Moyra Baxter offers condolenses to residential school victims, slain Muslim family

Kierra Smith (Contributed)
Kelowna swimmer headed to Toronto hoping to qualify for Olympics

If she qualifies, it will be Kierra Smith’s second time swimming at the Olympics

(Dave Ogilvie/Contributed
SUV hurdles down embankment in West Kelowna

The road was down to one lane while a tow truck pulled it up from the hill

The RCMP presence in Central Okanagan public schools is being reviewed by the board of education. (File photo)
RCMP presence welcomed in Central Okanagan public schools

Staff survey feedback overwhelmingly positive from students, staff and parents

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, England on Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada donating 13M surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries

Trudeau says the government will pay for 87 million shots to be distributed to poor countries

Jane Linden
KCR: Volunteering keeps you active

Kelowna Community Resources shares stories of its volunteers in a weekly column

Premier John Horgan speaks as provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, right, and health minister Adrian Dix look on during a press conference to update on the province’s fall pandemic preparedness plan during a press conference from the press theatre at Legislature in Victoria, Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. officials to provide details on Step 2 of COVID reopening plan Monday

Step 2 could allow for larger gatherings and a resumption of recreational travel

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Longtime SOWINS volunteer Diane Fru (far left) walks with members of her family as they Walk To End Abuse Sunday, June 13, 2021. South Okanagan Women In Needs Society (SOWINS) raised a record amount this year. (Monique Tamminga Western News)
Walk to End Abuse in South Okanagan breaks fundraising record

More than $53,000 raised so far while the pandemic has increased need for SOWINS’ services

Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller is seen during a news conference, Wednesday May 19, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Indigenous child-welfare battle heads to court despite calls for Ottawa to drop cases

Feds are poised to argue against two Canadian Human Rights Tribunal rulings

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod laughs while playing with Lucky the puppy outside their Chilliwack home on Thursday, June 10, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: B.C. family finds ‘perfect’ puppy with limb difference for 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy has special bond with Lucky the puppy who was also born with limb difference

A million-dollar ticket was sold to an individual in Vernon from the Lotto Max draw Friday, June 11, 2021. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Lottery ticket worth $1 million sold in Vernon

One lucky individual holds one of 20 tickets worth $1 million from Friday’s Lotto Max draw

Most Read