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Swine fever decimates China’s pig population — U.S. pork exports double

PortandTerminal.com, October 31, 2019

A deadly, highly contagious disease called African swine fever is sweeping through China’s hog farms, literally killing demand for American feed such as soybeans, but sending Chinese demand for American pork skyrocketing

BEIJING, CHINA – An outbreak of African swine fever, a highly contagious disease that’s been called “pig Ebola,” is ravaging Asia’s pig industry with no sign of letting up.

As a result, U.S. exports of pork to China have doubled this year, as President Xi Jinping tries to thread the needle between a swine fever epidemic that has decimated the nation’s pig population and a stubborn, seemingly intractable trade war with American President Trump.

Pork fundamentals in China

Pig Farm In Anhui, China

With a population of almost 1.4 billion people, China is the largest country in the world. The Chinese also love to eat pork, so much so that they are the fourth-largest consumer of pork on a per capita basis globally. Once you understand these two basic fundamentals it should come as no surprise that China is by far the largest market for pork in the world and is home to over 50% of the world’s pig herd. But now many of those pigs have been wiped out.

This is a story about the world’s largest pork consumer, China, and the world’s largest pork exporter, the United States.

Ken Roberts writing for Forbes magazin

As many as half of China’s pigs, an estimated 300 million, have died of the African swine fever epidemic or been exterminated in the last 13 months.

Complaining won’t help lady. There’s a pork shortage happening! Now, who’s next in line?

That has sent pork prices skyrocketing, up as much as 159 percent at the wholesale level and more than 70 percent at the retail level in China.

Grudgingly, China has been forced to look for alternative sources of pork and that’s where American farmers have scored a win.

American pork exports to China

China has ramped up imports of pork as its domestic prices soar following outbreaks of African swine fever which has devastated the world’s largest hog herd. It is buying U.S. pork even with a 72% tariff on imports.

In the week ended Oct. 3, imports soared to 142,200 metric tons, U.S. Department of Agriculture data showed Thursday. For all of September, shipments were 19,900 tons.

The Chinese “are insatiable in their appetite for pork,”

Arnold Silver, director of raw materials procurement at Smithfield Foods Inc., the world’s biggest pork producer

The U.S. Meat Export Federation also expects increased Chinese buying in 2020. American pork exports to China will likely see 12% growth in 2019 and 13% growth in 2020, reaching 3.1 million metric tons, Erin Borror, an economist with the group, said at a recent industry conference. That forecast assumes the trade war will persist.

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