Worsening forecasts for China’s ASF outbreaks
Over the past few weeks, the serious effects of African Swine Fever in China have become clear.
The Chinese Ministry of Agriculture announced an 18% decline in pig numbers in February, compared to the previous year. Expectations for production levels this year have declined. Rising import demand boosted pig prices in the EU and US.
In January, the mid-range of forecasts from the USDA, GIRA and Rabobank was a 5% decline in Chinese pork production in 2019. However, estimates now range from a 10% decline (USDA) to a 35% decline (Rabobank). A 20% decline, anticipated by GIRA, or around 10 million tonnes, is roughly equal to annual US production.
This reinforces the expectation that there will be a significant import demand from China this year. Before, we estimated that around 3 million tonnes could be mobilised. GIRA agrees with this and anticipates that 2021 import levels could be even higher, reaching 4 million tonnes. This reflects reports indicating the disease has not been controlled. Producers are also reportedly cautious of restocking, which is prolonging the crisis.
Imports will probably not be able to make up the shortfall in production. Therefore, it seems falling per capita pork consumption can be expected in China. Prices cannot rise indefinitely, and this may eventually limit the import pull. Increased switching to alternative meats is likely, particularly fish and chicken. There remains the risk that some switch away from pork consumption could become permanent, which may be a concern in years to come.
In the long term, ASF will also force a significant restructuring of the Chinese pig industry. Modern, intensive production will likely displace farms that cannot afford good biosecurity at an even faster rate. This may help the industry move closer towards self-sufficiency over the next decade. So while opportunities for exporters look good in the short-term, in the mid to long term, they may not be sustainable.
Bethan Wilkins, Analyst
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