African Swine Fever Losses Take a Toll in China

Piglets ( Jo WIndmann )

The Chinese Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs said African swine fever (ASF) is under control in China in a June 24 article by Xinhua, it’s state news agency Xinhua. But “boots on the ground” say the disease has already taken as many as half of China’s breeding pigs. 

The government has reported 137 outbreaks so far, but many more are going unreported, most recently in southern provinces such as Guangdong, Guangxi and Hunan, according to four farmers and an official recently interviewed by Reuters.

“Something like 50% of sows are dead,” Edgar Wayne Johnson, a veterinarian who has spent 14 years in China and founded Enable Agricultural Technology Consulting, a Beijing-based farm services firm with clients across the country, told Reuters.

Three other executives who produce vaccines, feed additives and genetics also estimate losses of 40% to 50%, based on falling sales for their companies’ products and direct knowledge of the extent of the deadly disease on farms across the country, Reuters said.

The losses are not just from infected pigs or pigs that are culled from herds that have infected pigs. Many farmers are sending pigs to market early when reports of ASF get near their farm. 

Analysts believe this has helped keep a lid on pork prices in recent months. However, prices began rising substantially in June. China’s agricultural ministry has said they could surge by 70% in coming months as a result of the outbreak. 

Unreported ASF outbreaks make it challenging to get an accurate idea of how much devastation is occurring in China. China had 375 million pigs in late March, 10% fewer than at the same time a year ago, according to the National Bureau of Statistics. It had 38 million sows, a decline of 11% on the year.

Despite Beijing’s efforts to encourage farmers to restock, many farmers are hesitant to do so. Experts say that restocking farms previously infected with ASF is risky. The virus can survive for weeks outside a host, potentially living on in a farm that has not been thoroughly disinfected.

ASF is a deadly virus that does not have a cure or vaccine. The disease only affects pigs – it does not harm humans or pose any food safety risk. For more information about ASF and its spread, visit

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