ROME – African swine fever could cause a 20 percent drop in the number of pigs in China, increasing the import of other meat products and reducing demand for cereals and soybeans worldwide.
The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has warned that the rapid spread of the disease in China, which has half of the world’s pigs, will have “a notable impact in the world markets for meat and animal feed.”
FAO expert Josef Schmidhuber said that the global effect will partly depend on the ability to substitute pork for other meats, such as chicken.
“In China, this is happening, but not as fast as expected, because pork is their favorite meat,” he told EFE.
He also warned that, without substitution, the prices of the product “will continue to rise.”
Since the first outbreak of African swine fever in China in August, the disease, which is highly infectious for animal but harmless to people, has spread to the main regions of the country and neighbors such as Vietnam, Mongolia and Cambodia.
More than a million pigs have been slaughtered in the Asian country to avoid infection as there is no effective vaccine.
Indirect data has shown that pork production could be reduced by around 20 percent and some estimates raise that percentage to 35, which is equivalent to all of Europe’s pork production.
It is estimated that imports of pork will grow up to 26 percent, which offers “considerable opportunities to those countries free of African swine with export capacity,” such as Spain, France, Germany and Denmark, Schmidhuber said.
Important poultry producers, such as Brazil and Thailand, could also benefit from changes in consumption, as well as lower prices of soybeans due to lower demand from China, which is responsible for almost two-thirds of world imports, with almost half of that amount going to feed pigs.
Soybean purchases have also slowed due to trade tensions between China and the United States, which have caused changes in the composition of exports to China, giving preference to Brazil and Argentina.
In addition, every time the efficiency of feed is higher, the Chinese consumption of meat grows at a lower rate than in the past and the country stores more than 1.8 billion tons of corn, reducing the need to import barley, sorghum and other grains.