African Swine Fever Still Rampant a Year Since Outbreak in China, Magnitude of Its Impact Still UnknownWed, 07 Aug 2019 14:53:58 CDT
One full year has elapsed since African Swine Fever first appeared in China. Twelve months later, the situation continues to develop with new outbreaks spreading throughout Asia as well as other parts of the world. Good fortune and extreme vigilance has kept the disease from cropping up in our own country. Still, the devastating impacts to the global pork industry that have been left in the disease’s wake have been impossible to escape - some of which interpreted as positives for the domestic industry and potential export growth. Roy Lee Lindsey, executive director of the Oklahoma Pork Council, sat down this past week with Radio Oklahoma Ag Network Associate Farm Director Carson Horn during the 2019 Oklahoma Pork Congress to discuss those impacts and the current status of the ASF situation. You can listen to their complete conversation by clicking or tapping the LISTEN BAR below at the bottom of the page.
According to China’s government, ASF has infected approximately 1.2 million hogs within its herd. It also claims to have the disease contained. However, Lindsey is skeptical of whether or not the Chinese government is being totally forthcoming in exactly what is happening on the ground there. Instead, he is paying closer attention to what analysts at Rabobank are speculating - who suggest that China has probably lost up to 50% of its swine herd to the disease. With no vaccine for the deadly virus and given the relentless spreading of the disease as observed in other affected nations, it is doubtful China actually does in fact have the disease under control.
“So, there is a huge hole coming into the world’s pork supply. China is the world’s largest pork producer and by far the largest pork consumer. With the losses they’ve seen - you do the math - it’s a significant amount of the world’s pork supply,” Lindsey said. “I think the disease is just endemic in China and this is a very hardy virus that is difficult to clean up and will survive in the environment for an extended period. So, it will be very difficult to repopulated and get production ramped back up. Most projections say they are four to five years from being able to replace and grow their herd back to where it was and that’s assuming they get the disease under control now.”
While speculation swirls about just how significant the overall impacts will be, there is also consideration for the opportunities that this catastrophe presents.
According to Lindsey, because of the losses incurred from ASF, the world is expected to have 5% less protein on the global marketplace this year compared to last. He says this holds tremendous opportunity for US producers to fill that demand. Regardless if China buys it from the US or a competitor, he says there will still be holes the US is well-positioned to fill and capitalize on. The easiest solution, Lindsey offers though, is for the US and China to resolve their trade differences and begin filling their freezers with American pork. Of course, that is a decision that continues to be negotiated.
Naturally, the threat of this disease popping up in the US is also of great concern to producers here at home. Measures have been taken by the USDA in collaboration with border and customs officials to ensure that never happens. Action has also been taken to develop a plan of response in the event that the disease ever does crop up on American soil. Mitigating its spread and getting production back on track would be integral in limiting the resulting fallout of an outbreak. Lindsey says this would be catastrophic to the US pork industry and the entire ag industry as a whole if this were to occur.
“All exports would immediately stop. The impact of that would be economically devastating for our industry,” he said. “Eight years ago, Iowa State estimated an ASF outbreak in the US would cost $8 billion to the pork industry in the first year. Another $3 billion to the beef industry, $4 billion to corn growers and $1.5 billion to soybeans. So, you’re in the neighborhood of $15 billion annually - and that’s an estimate from eight years ago - so that number could be significantly higher today.”
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