China’s diners must pay more for their favourite meat or forego pork at mid-autumn as swine fever decimates supply
· The price of pork – steamed, fried, barbecued, boiled, stewed and cooked in a myriad of ways – jumped 46.7 per cent in August compared with last year
· African swine fever, which is harmless to humans, is deadly for pigs, destroying 32.2 per cent of China’s hogs in July
Eric Ng, South China Morning Post (China)
14 Sep, 2019
As mid-autumn celebrations get under way, dining tables across China will be paying more for their favourite pork dish, or looking to substitutes , as the country’s biggest outbreak of a hog disease decimated the meat’s supply and cause prices to soar.
The price of pork – steamed, fried, barbecued, boiled, stewed and cooked in a myriad of ways – jumped 46.7 per cent in August compared with last year, as the African swine fever sent China’s favourite meat into a severe shortage. The price of pork, at an eight-year high, fuelled the overall cost of food to a 10 per cent gain, which propelled China’s August inflation to accelerate by 2.8 per cent.
Expensive pork, which makes up two-thirds of the annual meat consumption for the average non-Muslim Chinese household by one estimate, is forcing consumers to make hard choices: pay more, or eat less of the meat.
“My mother ended up buying chicken, when the price of her pork ribs jumped to 51 yuan a kilogram the other day, from 30 yuan a few months ago,” said Sophie Yu, a Beijing office worker. “The local supermarket saleslady said pork price has been rising every day. But nobody is complaining, and the meat portions in the restaurants have not shrunk.”
African swine fever, which is harmless to humans, is deadly for pigs, destroying 32.2 per cent of China’s hogs in July
, while the number of sows – the benchmark for how many pigs are added to the livestock capacity – tumbled by 31.9 per cent, China’s Agriculture and Rural Affairs Vice Minister Yu Kangzhen said last week.
Since a pig’s life cycle lasts from 12 to 14 months before it is old enough for slaughter, it takes at least a year before more supply can be brought to market and for prices to stabilise, according to Daiwa Capital Markets’ economists.
The Chinese authorities have unveiled a string of measures in the past few weeks to ensure there is sufficient supply to meet the number of public holidays and festivities due in the coming months, from the Mid-Autumn Festival in September to the weeklong national day celebration in early October.
The Chinese government wants domestic supply to make up no less than 95 per cent of the pork consumed every year, a floor for the self-sufficiency ratio, according to an edict on Tuesday. They are encouraging Chinese farmers to raise more hogs, providing more loans and interest subsidies to turn farmland to raise hogs.
To help fill the widening supply gap as the effects of the epidemic continued – after massive culling earlier in the year was followed by dwindling hogs supply – pork import more than doubled year-on-year in July and was up 36 per cent in the year’s first seven months.
This is a big deal and has had a price impact for the international pork market, given China – which produces and consumes around half the world’s total supply of the meat – was also the largest pork importer in the three years up until 2018.
A hog price index compiled by Rabobank tracking price movements in the European Union, United States, China, Canada, and Brazil has jumped 34 per cent in the six months to mid-August.
China’s pork import – including offal – this year is likely to surpass the 3.1 million tonnes record seen in 2016, said Pan Chenju, a Hong Kong-based animal protein senior analyst at the Netherlands-based bank.
“We expect the pork supply gap to not be met by imports or domestic supply of other meat,” she said. “The gap will partly be met by plant-based protein and partly by lower consumption.”
A 25 per cent loss of pork production in China due to African swine fever could result in around 8 million tonnes of meat supply shortfall this year, Pan said...
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