African swine fever and China — it’s complicated

Even as the nation’s pork herd rebuilds, new outbreaks are happening and new variants are emerging

China’s pork sector continues to grapple with new ASF outbreaks.

China’s efforts to control African swine fever outbreaks among its pig herd remained complicated, with 11 outbreaks officially reported so far this year and new variants of the virus also present, an agriculture ministry official said recently.

Beijing has been rebuilding its pig herd after the virus, first detected in China in 2018, slashed pig and pork output in the world’s top market.

Industry sources have said there have been fresh outbreaks in northern and northeastern China earlier in the year. New outbreaks were also detected in the southwestern province of Sichuan, Reuters reported. “The control and prevention situation is still complicated, and the task remains severe,” said Xin Guochang, an official at the husbandry bureau of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs.

The risk of fresh outbreaks persisted even as the overall disease situation is stable, Xin told reporters.

China’s herd of 439 million pigs at the end of June was 99.4 per cent of the level at the end of 2017, with sow herd at 45.64 million head, 102 per cent of the level at end of 2017, said Zeng Yande, head of development and planning under the ministry, at the same event.

Recovery of pig production has led to more use of corn, and pushed up prices of the grain, said Song Danyang, another agriculture ministry official, at the press briefing.

Corn supplies are guaranteed and prices will probably remain high and stabilize before the new harvest in the fall as the arrivals of imported corn, sorghum and barley increase, Song said.

Feed producers have also turned to cheaper wheat to replace corn in the feed ration.

China’s use of wheat in feed is expected to stay at a relatively high level as the grain retains a price advantage over corn, Song added.

Wheat prices in the central province of Henan, a top producer of the grain, were 2,520 yuan (US$388.57) per tonne on July 19, beating the price of corn at 2,910 yuan.

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