China’s rapidly declining pork supplies has some consumers turning to beef, and Australian suppliers are seeing a booming demand.
African swine fever has decimated China’s hog industry, with projections of a 20% to 30% decline in 2019. That has led to rising pork prices and Chinese consumers seeking alternative meats.
One beneficiary of increased Chinese demand for meat is Australian beef producers. Imports of Australian beef jumped 66% to 72,460 tons from January to April of this year. That’s on top of increases in beef imports of 90% per years since 2009, and continued since the first report of African swine fever in August of 2018.
China has emerged as a major buyer of lower-quality cuts of Australian beef, including forequarters and trimmings.
Recent reports suggest African swine fever is spreading, and is now found in Mongolia, Vietnam, and Cambodia.
The disease ripped through almost every province in China in just 9 months. According to Zhu Zengyong of the Chinese Academy of Agriculture Sciences, in March, China's whole amount of breeding sows on hand fell by 21 percent year on year.
China’s pork imports -- which mostly come from the European Union, Canada and Brazil -- may surge 40% to 1.7 million tons this year, before increasing to 2.1 million tons in 2020, the China Daily newspaper reported last month, citing a report from the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs in Beijing.
“African swine fever will be the biggest influence on global meat markets possibly for the next few years, if not possibly the decade,” Tim Ryan, a Singapore-based market analyst with trade group Meat & Livestock Australia, told Reuters in a phone interview. “I don’t think there’s going to be enough meat around the world available to actually fill the gap.”