Japan, the world's largest pork importer, could be importing more pigs from Europe and Mexico as the porcine epidemic diarrhea (PED) virus outbreak drives up domestic prices, according to the country's Agriculture Ministry.
Pig production in Japan may fall by as much as 5% from October to December, pushing up prices and weakening demand for local pork, Kenji Morita, director at the ministry's meat and egg division, said in Tokyo. That's increasing demand for cheaper imports, he said.
Japanese farmers raise a total of 9.54 million pigs as of February 1, according the ministry's survey released July 1.
Pork imports by Japan in the first five months of this year gained 7.7% to 331,203 tonnes from a year earlier, according to data from the Agriculture Ministry. Japanese demand is shifting to imported meat because of an outbreak of the disease, said Makiko Tsugata, an analyst at Market Risk Advisory Co., a researcher in Tokyo.
Japan bought 1.24 million tonnes of pork last year, representing 18% of global purchases, according to the United States Department of Agriculture. The United States was the biggest exporter at 2.29 million tonnes in 2013.
The PED virus, which has plagued the United States, Canada, South Korea and Taiwan, was reported in Japan in October last year. Japan has discovered a total of 1.17 million cases in 805 farms across 38 prefectures since it confirmed the latest outbreak in October last year.
The first case in the current crisis was found in the southern island of Okinawa on October 1.
The virus spread to Kagoshima and Miyazaki prefectures in December, the two biggest growers of hogs. Kagoshima is Japan's biggest pork-producing prefecture, representing 14% of the total Japanese herd. Miyazaki is the second-largest producer with 8.8% share.