China’s Pig Crisis Boosts U.K. Meat Producer’s Sales

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A surge in U.K. pork exports is expected to stretch into at least next year as China seeks to fill a shortage caused by a deadly hog virus, according to one of Britain’s top producers.

Cranswick Plc -- a provider of fresh pork, sausages, chicken and other foods -- said Tuesday that export revenue jumped 65% in the six months through September, fueled by Chinese demand. That helped lift the company’s overall sales by 7.1%, and Chief Executive Officer Adam Couch said a recovery in Asia’s herd isn’t expected until between 2022 and 2025.

European pork producers have been among the biggest beneficiaries from the outbreak of African swine fever sweeping across Asia. The virus has slashed China’s herd by half since it was first reported in August last year, according to Rabobank International.

“We’re seeing that growth continue,” Couch said in a phone interview. “Processing is at an absolute peak.”

China’s massive pork shortfall has spurred domestic prices to more than double, boosting imports and ratcheting up the cost of meat around the world. European Union pork exports to China jumped 55% in the first nine months of the year, and U.K. sales nearly doubled.

Still, that pace could be threatened by local outbreaks. The virus was found this month in wild boar in western Poland, nearing Germany, the EU’s top producer. A spread across the border could risk export restrictions.

The disease’s potential spread “is probably our biggest single concern at the moment,” Couch said.

Cranswick shares rose 2.6% on Tuesday and are up 25% this year. The company said it accounts for almost 60% of the U.K.’s pork exports to China.

(Updates throughout with comments from CEO.)

To contact the reporters on this story: Megan Durisin in London at [email protected];Eric Pfanner in London at [email protected]

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Eric Pfanner at [email protected], Nicholas Larkin, Lynn Thomasson

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