Outside of its origins on the African continent, African swine fever (ASF) continues its relentless march through parts of Asia and Europe, causing increasing disruption to the world’s pork production. Much of the world’s attention has been on China due to its No. 1 position in global pork production. The World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) now reports that nearly all of China’s provincial level administrative units (see heat map) have reported one or more ASF breaks, which means all but the far west (and Hong Kong and Macau) of China now has some level of ASF exposure.
Official reports peg China’s losses to culling and mortality at about one million pigs since the outbreak was reported last August. However, unofficial reports put that number as much as 10 times that amount. According to economist Steve Meyer with Kerns and Associates, China’s breeding herd is down 19 percent from one year ago and total market hogs are down 16 percent from a year ago. This has greatly hindered China’s ability to feed its population pork, which it typically desires. This could be a driver behind the recent largest purchase of U.S. pork by China in two years despite the self-imposed tariffs.
Non-governmental reports from U.S. pork industry visitors cite China’s ASF as “endemic,” meaning fleeting hope of containment or eradication anytime in the near future. This is further evidenced by the recent confirmation of the ASF virus in neighboring Vietnam, where it has been confirmed in 17 provinces in the northern part of the country. Other pig-raising countries nearby with growing levels of concern include Thailand, whose pork industry is worth $3.3 billion a year and is considered the region’s most advanced. By some estimates, up to 80 percent of Thai pork is raised on large farms, which should improve biosecurity. However, neighboring countries are typically less sophisticated in their pig-rearing abilities.