FILE PHOTO: A resident gets pork from a vendor at a market in Beijing, China December 26, 2018. REUTERS/Jason Lee
WUZHEN, China (Reuters) – China’s imports of pork will increase ‘substantially’ after the first quarter, a leading analyst said on Thursday, as the worst disease outbreak in years impacts pig production in the world’s top hog market.
China has reported 113 outbreaks of African swine fever since August 2018, though many farmers and industry insiders say several outbreaks are going unreported.
The contagious disease, which does not harm humans, causes a high mortality rate in pigs and has no vaccine or cure.
Domestic production of pork by China, which produces about half of the world’s total, will fall by up to 20 percent in 2019, Oscar Tjakra, director, Food & Agribusiness research at Dutch lender Rabobank, told a conference.
Pork production increased in the first three quarters of 2018, said Zhu Zengyong, associate professor at the Agricultural Information Institute of the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences (CAAS), but declined significantly in the fourth quarter after the disease began spreading rapidly.
He cited official data issued by the statistics bureau, which shows the number of slaughtered hogs fell 1.2 percent in 2018 to 693.8 million heads.
The disease has totally disrupted the production plans of many major companies, added Zhu, with some halting expansion because of the disease.
China’s pig herd declined by 15 percent in 2018, according to Rabobank estimates, Tjakra said.
Reporting by Hallie Gu and Dominique Patton; editing by Richard Pullin and Shreejay Sinha