China eyes to rebuild its pig herd in three years


A domino effect is expected for exporters as the structure of the industry is about to change in all Asian countries hit by the ASF disease.

Posted on Feb 06 ,08:57

China eyes to rebuild its pig herd in three years

The Chinese pork market is expected to remain strong this year but the industry is reshaping helped by the subsidies poured by the government for large scale farms. "China has announced a plan to rebuild its own domestic pork production capacity and capability. The government is pledging subsidies toward the construction of new large scale modern farms with a target to regain up to 80% of its previous production within the next 3 years.
Producers will need high-quality genetics to avoid the loss of production and lowered efficiencies resulting from stocking their farms with commercial gilts saved back from the finishing floors. No doubt there would be a significant drop in maternal performance and kilograms of pork produced as a result," considers Lyle L. Jones, Genesus' Director of Sales China. Official data released on 17 January by China's national statistics bureau (NSB) revealed that, in 2019, 540 million pigs were raised in the country, down 21.6% year on year and 150 million less than in 2018. Pork production last year was 42.55 million tons, down 21.3% and 11.49 million tons from 2018. Also, according to the data released, the number of pigs raised by the 11 public listed pig companies in 2019 was 41,612,300, accounting for 7.65 percent of the country's total and nearly 6 million fewer than in 2018.
That means that are still a big number of small and medium-scale farms that are expected to join forces if they want to benefit from governmental financial support and to survive in the future. For China or other Asian countries affected by the African swine fever, it will take time to recover from this crisis. For their trading partners, that situation has already created a domino effect that is expected to last in the future, as the industry is reshaping on a stronger basis. "African Swine Fever (ASF) is a virus that has wiped out more than half of the pigs of China in just a year. It is now spreading through Asia, with a quarter of the pigs in Vietnam already killed. By the end of last year, African Swine Fever had resulted in the death of more than a quarter of the world’s pigs. The impact is greater than Avian Flu (aka Bird Flu), Foot and Mouth Disease, or any of the other animal viruses that have previously threatened dire consequences for the world’s food systems.

For those who see reverting to smaller-scale, local food systems as the solution, the bad news is that pandemics are harder to control on smaller, organic, backyard or subsistence farms, as they typically have weaker biosecurity systems, which larger, professional run farms can afford. African Swine Fever is so contagious that it is known to have been spread by something as simple as the tires on a delivery truck. Chinese government policy is focussed on closing down small farms, increasing biosecurity and in a global food system, the pressure to close small farms is only going to increase.

Moreover, the domino effects of the implosion of the pork sector spread to other areas of agriculture: less pork production in China means lower imports of corn and soybeans from Brazil and the US, and increased imports of beef, chicken and pork from the traditional livestock export powers of Brazil and the US, along with dramatically increased demand from Russia, Germany and even the UK. Fewer young pigs in China has meant a huge drop in the demand for milk whey, and other specialized components that go into their feed, with a similar drop in prices for all of those ingredients. Even the drop in John Deere’s share price has been attributed to the knock-on effects of ASF.

How long will it take Asia, and China, in particular, to recover? Although there are reports from the Chinese media suggesting that a recovery of sorts is underway, current predictions say it will take at least 3 years. What’s important here, though, is that ‘recovery’ won’t mean going back to the way things were. China had an extraordinary number of very small farms, which is actively working to combine into larger ones, a trend that is spreading through other Asian countries. The domino effects, such as reducing the need for input purchases (e.g., buying whey from Ireland, plasma proteins from the US, etc) will continue to evolve as the market structure changes", predicted Aidan Connoly, CEO of Cainthus and President of AgriTech Capital, in an article targeting the major shifts expected in the next decade by the food and farming industries.

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