April 16, 2019
Up to 200 million pigs in China expected to die due to swine fever outbreaks
The figure is the highest for such a forecast and magnified the scale of the epidemic in China. The country, according to Rabobank, had about 360 million animals as of late 2018. China's pork output would also be dragged down by 30% this year from 2018's level, prompting a push for more meat imports and reducing demand for animal feed made from commodities like soybeans.
"It's unprecedented, and there are many dimensions of the situation that are still not fully understood," said Justin Sherrard, Rabobank's global strategist for animal protein.
A total of between 150 million and 200 million pigs will die from African swine fever or getting culled, agricultural industry analysts at the bank said.
China, which produces about half the world's pork, had said it culled about 1.01 million pigs. The country also reported 124 outbreaks since August 2018, with the swine fever virus having reached every province apart from the southern island of Hainan.
China's pork production is seen at around 38 million tonnes in 2019 versus 54 million tonnes in 2018, Sherrard said, citing Rabobank's latest forecast. That would be the lowest level in at least 20 years, according to National Bureau of Statistics data, with repercussions across the global market for all animal proteins.
The decline would be nearly 30% larger than annual output in the US and equivalent to Europe's yearly pork supply, Rabobank said. The US agriculture department has forecast a smaller decline in China's pork output in 2019, of about 10%.
In March, China's agriculture ministry revealed that the national pig herd in February had dropped 16.6% year on year, with sow stocks falling more than 19%.
In major Chinese hog-producing region Shandong, breeding pig numbers plunged 41% in the seven months to February.
China's massive losses of breeding herds will hamper its hog market recovery, Rabobank pointed out.
Pig prices have soared since March, with rising pork prices driving consumer inflation in March to its highest since October 2018, data recently showed.
The drop in production will mean China will have to increase pork imports by 1.5 million tonnes to about four million tonnes, sucking in all available supplies from the global market, said Sherrard.
China's purchases of US pork are already increasing, and hit the highest in at least six years last week, US data showed.
Sherrard further warned that the swine fever disease is spreading quickly within Southeast Asia, with Cambodia already confirming its first case after a rapid spread through Vietnam.