Caixin
Nov 12, 2019 08:24 PM
BUSINESS & TECH

Pork Prices Double in China on Swine Fever Fallout

Shoppers buy pork at a supermarket in Yiichang, Hubei province on Oct. 18. Photo: VCG
Shoppers buy pork at a supermarket in Yiichang, Hubei province on Oct. 18. Photo: VCG

Pork prices have more than doubled in China as a nationwide outbreak of African swine fever continues to wreak havoc on the market.

Prices of the country’s favorite meat in October surged 101.3% year-on-year and 20.1% from September, according to data from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS).

The accelerating price growth was what pushed China’s consumer price index (CPI) to its highest point in nearly eight years in October, the NBS said Saturday when it announced the data. The CPI rose at its fastest pace since February 2012, increasing 3.8% year-on-year and 0.8% month-on-month, according to the data.

Skyrocketing pork prices have also caused a jump in prices for substitute meats such as beef, mutton, chicken, and duck. Rising food prices, particularly pork, contributed about two-thirds of the CPI’s rise over the last year, NBS data showed.

China is experiencing a severe pork shortage as the country’s stock is ravaged by the African swine fever outbreak first reported in August 2018. The outbreak has resulted in the culling of over one million pigs, and left many pig farmers reluctant – or financially unable – to restock. There is no vaccine or cure for the virus, which kills most of the pigs it infects.

China’s pig stocks have declined continuously since the virus was reported. According to data from the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs, the number of live pigs fell 3% and number of fertile sows fell 2.8% in October from the previous month. Compared with the same period last year, the number of live pigs and sows decreased by 41.1% and 38.9%, respectively.

Wang Bin, deputy director of market operations and consumption promotion at China’s Ministry of Commerce, said that in the first three quarters of 2019, pork production decreased 17.2% year-on-year and slaughter volume fell 13.8% year-on-year.

China Merchants Securities fixed-income researcher Yin Ruizhe says pork prices may continue climbing until September 2020, with steep increases from November 2019 to February 2020, especially as Lunar New Year nears, peak season for meat consumption in China.

A report on China’s agricultural outlook over the next decade issued by the agricultural ministry’s market early warning expert committee in April this year predicted that pork prices could increase significantly in the second half of 2019 and peak in the first half of 2020.

Production capacity has begun to recover in China’s northeast, where African swine fever first broke out. Wei Baigang, an official with the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs, told a press conference held by the ministry in late October that pig production is expected to recover by the end of the year. In Jilin, Liaoning, Shandong and 12 other provincial-level regions, the ratio of live pig stocks increased or remained unchanged from September, Wei said.

However, analysts expect that pig production in the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region and southern provinces of Guangdong, Anhui, Jiangsu has yet to bottom out.

Caixin learned that a new round of outbreaks was reported in June in Jiangsu, Shandong and other provinces where the epidemic previously broke out. Caixin visits to several cities in northern Jiangsu province revealed that the summer outbreaks were even more lethal than previous outbreaks.

Contact reporter Ren Qiuyu (qiuyuren@caixin.com)

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