Coronavirus may cause drop in China's pork production

Residents shop for pork at Lianyun district at Lianyungang city in Jiangsu province on Dec 3, 2019. A handout photo.
PHOTO: China Daily/Asia News Network

The Covid-19 outbreak may result in the decline of nearly 500,000 metric tons of pork produced this year in China, according to a report released by the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, pork imports may double this year, which will help narrow the gap between supply and demand, the China Agricultural Sector Development Report 2020 said.

Due to the loss of stock of breeding sows caused by African swine fever since late 2018, production of pork in China will continue to fall this year, though at a slower rate. It is expected pork production will start to increase next year, the report said.

If the Covid-19 outbreak had not occurred, the production of pork in China might have reached about 38.3 million tons.

Now that number may fall to 37.8 million tons due to the epidemic, which has led to the closure of a large number of slaughterhouses and difficulties in transporting piglets, hogs, pork and feed.

These troubles will slow the process of recovery of breeding sows stock and pork production, the report said.

Due to the impact of the outbreak, pork production for the next two years will also be slightly affected, which may delay the full recovery of production in China, the report said.

Meanwhile, pork imports this year may reach nearly 4 million tons-compared with 2.1 million tons last year-a record high driven by demand and lowered tariffs, according to the report, which will help ease the gap between domestic supply and demand.

Although African swine fever's effect on pork production in China has been gradually declining, the Covid-19 outbreak is causing new uncertainty in the industry.

Authorities should take equally strict measures to control both diseases to help increase the supply of pork, the most consumed meat in China, the report suggested.

Local agricultural authorities should encourage enterprises in the industry-including pig farmers, processing companies and related logistics firms-to speed up the resumption of production that was halted by the Covid-19 epidemic, after making sure they have taken adequate control and prevention measures, it said.

Ye Xingqing, a researcher in agricultural economy at the Development Research Center of the State Council, said in addition to Covid-19, African swine fever remains a major potential threat to pork production in China.

"There is a possibility that another African swine fever outbreak can occur at any time as long as vaccines are not available," he said, adding that sustained efforts are needed from pig farmers to prevent the spread of the disease.

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