China lost an estimated 27.9 million metric tons of pork production during a 30-month cycle of decline and recovery after the country recorded its first cases of African swine fever (ASF) in 2018, according to a new study.
Between the third quarter of 2018 and the first quarter of 2021, China imported a record volume of pork, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Economic Research Service (ERS) said in the study, but those imports replaced only one-fifth of lost production. China experienced shortfalls in pork supplies for approximately 18 months, concentrated during the second half of 2019 and most of 2020.
Nearly all of the contraction in China’s swine herd occurred during the first three quarters of 2019, with swine inventory reaching its lowest point of 307 million at the end of the third quarter of 2019, the study said. Swine inventory recovered “marginally” to 310 million during the fourth quarter of 2019. Most of the recovery occurred during 2020; inventory grew to 407 million by the fourth quarter of 2020, and 416 million by the end of the first quarter of 2021. Official data indicate the swine herd has rebounded to close to its pre-ASF size.
Increases in pork prices lagged the spread of ASF; pork prices more than doubled, with most of the increase coming approximately one year after the initial outbreaks. Pork prices remained at a high level for 14 months and then fell rapidly during 2021, USDA said, returning to near their pre-ASF level about 38 months after the first outbreaks.
During 2019-20, global pork exports to China surged. China accounted for 45% of world pork imports in 2020. The EU accounted for 58% of the exports, while the U.S. was the second-leading pork exporter to China, with a 15% share.
The study analyzed officially reported ASF outbreaks in China using data from China’s Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs and United Nation’s World Organization for Animal Health. The report authors analyzed officially reported outbreaks to track the temporal and geographic spread of the disease. The study consulted national supply statistics, price data, official announcements, scientific articles, and private industry reports to provide a comprehensive assessment of the economic impacts of African swine fever in China. The study also gauged the impacts on pork-exporting countries using Chinese customs data.