China’s Demand for Chicken Soars as Sick Pigs Scare Customers

African swine fever is threatening China's massive pork industry. ( MGN )

(Bloomberg) -- More Chinese are shifting to poultry from pork as the spread of African swine fever worries consumers, sending prices of chicken meat to the highest level in at least three years.

China has reported outbreaks of the deadly virus in more than half of the country’s provinces and banned transport of live hogs from affected areas, according to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs. Sichuan, the nation’s largest hog producer, has banned the entry of live hogs and hog products from other regions to protect its own breeding industry.

“Chicken meat is the biggest winner as pork consumption is decreasing,” said Pan Chenjun, analyst with Rabobank International in Hong Kong. An unusual jump in chicken prices signals that restaurants and school canteens are intentionally replacing pork with chicken in dishes to minimize potential public health fears, even though the virus only affects pigs and not human beings.

Demand for chicken, a cheaper alternative to pork, has increased as transport restrictions on live hogs disrupt supply, said Pan. Chicken consumption in some areas is up more than 10 percent, said Feng Yonghui, chief analyst with industry portal

Wens Foodstuffs Group Co., the country’s largest hog breeder, said pig sales fell more than 10 percent in October from the previous month as outbreaks of African swine fever spread, disrupting transport and sales. Shandong Yisheng Livestock and Poultry Breeding Co, a major chicken farmer, saw profit more than double in the first nine months thanks to sales of more chicks.

As an added precaution, the agriculture ministry published a regulation last week that requires all trucks carrying hogs to register so the vehicles can be tracked. Long-distance transport of live hogs was found to be one of the major factors causing the virus to spread.

A price gauge for ex-factory chicken in Shandong has climbed 30 percent this year to about 10,000 yuan ($1,440) a metric ton, the highest in at least three years.


©2018 Bloomberg L.P.