China on alert after first African swine fever case in three months

21 Jan 2021 | Johnny Huang

A new outbreak of African swine fever (ASF) has been detected in southern China, marking the first case of the disease reported in China since late October 2020, the Chinese Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs reported Thursday.

The new outbreak was found in a farm in Guangdong province in southern China with more than 1,000 pigs, of which 214 had shown symptoms and died.

The Chinese authorities said, “the ASF epidemic is suspected to be imported due to illegal [domestic] transportation”.

This was the first ASF outbreak reported in the world’s largest pig producing and consuming country since October 26 last year when some of the 35 pigs carried in a truck were found to be positive for the disease in Sichuan province.

Sichuan is more than 1,000 kilometres away from Guangdong province.

China’s pig industry suffered severely from the previous ASF outbreak that raged through the country’s herds between 2018 and 2019, slashing the pig population by about a third.

By 2019, the country’s pig herd collapsed to 310 million heads, down from the 428 million heads in 2018, undercutting the country’s demand for soymeal and soybeans as demand contracted with the reduction in the herd.

China has the world’s largest pig herd numbering about 400-500 million heads and produces roughly 50-55 million mt of pork each year, most of which is consumed domestically.

It is expected that China’s pig herd will fully recover by the end of the first half of 2021, although any significant recurrence of ASF is likely to slow that recovery and dent expectations.

The rapid recovery of China’s pig industry has been the main driver of global animal feed demand, triggered a surge in soybean and corn demand from the sector in feed usage despite the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.