Millions of hogs in China have been depopulated due to African swine fever (ASF). No one can say just how many are gone, but Brett Stuart, president of Global AgriTrends, said the key to understanding the spread of ASF in China is to realize that not all of the hogs that are “gone” were burned or buried.
“The disease is slow moving,” Stuart said during a webinar hosted by Compeer Financial. “Because the virus moves slow, many farmers were able to market their hogs. It wasn’t millions of hogs being buried in the country, but millions of hogs going through processing plants.”
Some believe it will take China five to eight years to rebuild. But under the current situation with no vaccine, Stuart said he doesn’t think it’s possible for China to ever rebuild for three reasons.
1. The virus is hard to kill.
2. China’s swine industry structure is vast and diverse.
3. The government’s culture lacks transparency or control.
“I don’t think China ever returns to the level of hogs that they had a year ago,” he said. “A vaccine is the silver bullet, but everyone I talk to says it’s five years away at best. And that doesn’t mean we’re going to have a vaccine in five years, but that the best long-shot odds are in five years. Researchers have been trying to develop a vaccine for decades.”
Stuart said this changes the entire global structure of pork for decades.
“I don’t see how this ever goes away,” he added.
When ASF hit in China, Stuart says people began hoarding pork in anticipation of pork becoming “liquid gold” in the future when shortages hit.
Stuart believes there are massive inventories of frozen pork in China – millions of tons. What does that do? Move the gap further out into the future, he said.
“Any protein with exposure to the Chinese ASF situation should be watched closely,” he said. “All protein markets globally will be affected. This story is not over, it’s just getting going.”
To learn more about ASF prevention and spread, visit porkbusiness.com/ASF.
Read more from Farm Journal's PORK: