March 29 (EIRNS)—China’s hog herd was cut by 50% in the first eight months of 2019 by an outbreak of African Swine Fever (ASF), and is expected to lose another 5% to 10% by early 2020. There is no cure or vaccine for ASF, so farmers must cull the herds and kill the infected animals (i.e., once contracted, it is 100% fatal). China is the highest producer, consumer and importer of pork globally, so this loss is not only having major effects on pork markets globally, but also on animal feed markets, such as soybean, oil-seed and corn. China soybean imports are expected to decline (for the first time in 15 years) for a duration of at least several years. Additionally, it will not only take time to rebuild the herds, but farmers will only proceed with that once the threat of a new outbreak of ASF is eliminated.
China has geared up its import of pork from other countries; domestic production is expected to fall by 15% to 30%, based on available data. Pork is an important part of the Chinese diet, and its price, and that of other meats, has risen in China. However, prices to farmers in countries exporting to China, are inhibited by packer monopolies and speculators. Now, there is the additional factor of disruption from COVID-19 spreading through farm communities.
Vietnam, the world’s sixth-largest pork producer, is expected to lose about 25% of their hog herds; South Korea and Eastern Europe continue to be ravaged by ASF, and the Paris-based World Organization of Animal Health (OIE) warns that 25% of the global pig population is expected to die off in the near term due to the spread of ASF.
In March 2020, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) issued an advisory to pig producers and veterinarians to provide biosecurity training for their workers and any visitors to ensure the disease is kept out of U.S. farms. Biosecurity is already very high at most sizable U.S. hog operations. The USDA advisory states, “African swine fever (ASF) is a highly contagious foreign animal disease that affects both domestic and feral (wild) pigs. It does not affect human health and cannot be transmitted from pigs to humans. ‘ASF has never been detected in the United States and we want to keep it that way,’ ” said USDA’s Chief Veterinary Officer Dr. Jack Shere.
The ASF virus has now been identified in 50 countries, including Poland, Ukraine, Russia and the Philippines. It was also detected among a wild boar population in Belgium, and a cull is being planned.