April 7, 2021


African swine fever affects northern China's swine herd


Industry sources and analysts said a wave of African swine fever (ASF) outbreaks has resulted in a 20% decline of swine breeding herd in northern China, surpassing projected losses and increasing fears of ASF spreading to the south, Reuters reported. 


The ASF resurgence across the northeast, northern China and Henan province was caused by an exceptionally cold winter, higher swine density after a year of restocking, and new ASF strains. Henan is China's third biggest swine producing province.


Jan Cortenbach, chief technical officer at feed maker Wellhope-De Heus Animal Nutrition, said 20% to 25% of swine herds were affected by ASF outbreaks in the first quarter of this year.


A report by Founder Cifco Futures said Henan lost between 20% to 30% of its breeding sows, with the damage possibly irreversible.


Another report by Beijing Orient Agribusiness Consultant Ltd said sow stocks in northern China dropped 25% to 30% between February to March.


A China-based manager with a company that supplies large swine producers said several customers in northern China told him they lost more than half of their breeding stock.


China's Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs did not respond to a Reuters request for comment about the ASF resurgence.


According to official data from the ministry, China reported eight ASF outbreaks in the first quarter of this year, limited to small farms or swine being transported in south China. The ministry said sow herds increased 1.1% in January from December, and 1% on February from January.


China has only confirmed a few ASF outbreaks. Industry insiders said the ASF impact is worse than what is published from official data.


Beijing Orient said the first quarter ASF outbreak badly affected Shandong. Shandong and Hebei, both in northern China, are among the top six swine producing provinces in the country.


China's fourth biggest swine producer, New Hope Liuhe, told investors last month that ASF had affected their farms in Hebei and northern Shandong.


Yan Zhichun, New Hope's chief science officer, said the impact of ASF could be more serious compared to early 2019 when companies did not understand methods for control and prevention, such as precise tooth extraction.


Yan said a sizeable portion of the company's Hebei and Shandong farms were affected by “atypical” ASF strains. New Hope had reported discovering a less deadly but more chronic ASF strain on its farms.


New Hope said its sow herd dropped 7.5% or by 90,000 swine from December to February due to ASF and removing inefficient sows.


Changjiang Securities said however, that piglet prices are increasing because of the impact to the swine breeding herd, even though live hog prices dropped from January to March.


It said piglets costs more than RMB 1,800 (US$273.94; RMB 1 = US$0.15) per head on average, compared to RMB 2,356 (~US$358.76) in February this year and higher than RMB 995 (~US$151.51) in November last year. It said this would result in higher swine prices.


Industry sources said producers in southern China are on high alert after ASF outbreaks last year were caused by rains and floods. Changjiang analysts said the rainy season arriving in the second quarter may be related to how ASF affects southern China.


- Reuters