March 23, 2019
African swine fever to decimate China's 2019 pig population by 13%--report
The toll that the African swine fever has taken on China is expected to result in the country's total swine inventory in 2019 decreasing by 13% to 374 million head, according to a Global Agricultural Information Network (GAIN) report released by the US Department of Agriculture Foreign Agricultural Service (USDA-FAS).
Pork production is also expected to decrease by 5% to 51.4 million tonnes, with the reduced supply only slightly offset by weakened demand, the report said.
"To cover the domestic supply gap, China will increase pork imports by 33 percent to 2 million tonnes", the GAIN report said.
As a result of consumer concerns about ASF in pork, beef production is seen to increase at least 1% to 6.5 million tonnes. However, overall cattle inventory is projected to decrease 3% to 91 million head as many of China's smaller ranching operations are still unwilling to expand. Beef imports are thus expected to increase 20% to 1.6 million tonnes due to limited domestic supply.
ASF cases have been reported by 28 out of 31 Chinese administrative regions (including provinces, municipalities and Autonomous Regions) as of March 11, 2019. This means ASF has been detected in provinces that represent all commercially relevant swine and pork production in China, according to the USDA report.
Outbreak number underestimated?
A total of 115 ASF outbreaks have been reported by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs to the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), with roughly 1 million swine culled as of March 11.
However, the report said that it is likely these figures are underestimated, claiming that many ASF outbreaks in China have simply not been reported due, among others, to the lack of incentive for farmers to report.
It was also noted that Chinese media has reported ASF outbreaks that do not appear in the official reports. "Some contacts have reported instances where individuals were actually discouraged or prevented from publicizing outbreaks in their region. For example, a hog manager in Shandong Province was allegedly arrested for reporting an ASF outbreak to the national government, after his reports to local government were ignored", the report said.
The report also said it was highly improbable that outbreaks along major transportation corridors and in densely populated swine production regions were isolated incidents. "For example, Shandong Province, a major swine producing region along a major North-South live swine transportation corridor, has only officially reported one case, a 4,500-head facility. However, industry has reported multiple cases of ASF in Shandong Province", the report said.
The USDA report added: "While the number of ASF reports in January and February 2019 has appeared to slow down compared to monthly reports from August to December 2018, it is unclear whether this decrease is due to a decrease in actual ASF cases, or a decrease in monitoring and reporting.