ASF ravages northern China’s pig herd

Industry sources and analysts from China say that a wave of African swine fever (ASF) outbreaks have killed at least 20% of northern China’s breeding herd.

7 April 2021, at 8:41am

Analysis in Reuters explains that this exceeds expected losses and is renewing fears about ASF’s potential impact on the south of the country.

It is likely that the deadly pig disease made a comeback in the first quarter of 2021 after a year of declining outbreaks. The presence of ASF is a significant setback for China’s efforts to rebuild its pig herds after previous outbreaks of ASF in 2018 wiped out 50% of the country’s pigs.

The impact of ASF had slowed by late 2019 as the pig population declined. Large pig producers also learned to minimize the spread of the virus by removing infected pigs from herds early, a process the industry calls “tooth extraction”.

But an exceptionally cold winter, a higher density of pigs following a year of restocking, and new strains of swine fever triggered a fresh wave of outbreaks across the northeast, northern China and Henan province, the country’s third-biggest hog producing province.

“At least 20% of the herd was affected, maybe even 25%” in the northern and northeastern Chinese provinces because of outbreaks during the first quarter, said Jan Cortenbach, chief technical officer at feed maker Wellhope-De Heus Animal Nutrition.

A report by Founder Cifco Futures said that Henan province lost between 20% and 30% of its breeding sows and that the damage could be “irreversible”.

Beijing Orient Agribusiness Consultant Ltd said in a report last month that sow stocks in northern China in March fell by between 25% and 30% compared to February.

“This feels like 2018, 2019 all over again,” said a China-based manager with a company that supplies large hog producers.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs did not respond to a fax seeking comment on a resurgence of the disease and significant losses over the winter.

Food security is a sensitive issue in China and the government has confirmed few African swine fever outbreaks since the virus began spreading. Numerous industry insiders have described the impact as worse than official data show.

Read the full analysis in Reuters.