How swine fever is reshaping the global meat trade

Booming Chinese demand fuels ‘profound’ changes to supply chains


Emiko Terazono in London, Andres Schipani in São Paulo and Jamie Smyth in Sydney, Financial Times

Jan 8, 2020


China’s African swine fever epidemic has dramatically reshaped the global meat market and its trade patterns in the 18 months since the outbreak was first officially acknowledged.


The viral disease, which is deadly for pigs but does not affect humans, has reduced China’s pig herd by more than a third from a year ago with an estimated loss of 100m pigs. As a consequence, pork prices have soared to record highs and the world’s largest consumer of pork has turned to imports of not only pork but also of beef and chicken — and found a host of new suppliers.


“Nobody predicted the extent of the impact. It’s been more profound than we ever imagined,” said Adam Couch, chief executive of UK meat processor Cranswick.


Beijing has eased trade restrictions to secure more meat imports and even stepped up its purchases from countries such as US and Canada where political tensions have affected wider trade relationships. Even the UK, a small figure in the global pork market, has been swept up in China’s efforts to shore up supplies.


China’s meat imports jumped 63 per cent in the first 11 months of 2019 from the same period the previous year to $16.3bn, according to customs data.


As a result, suppliers struggled to respond. Approvals for meat processing facilities in countries such as Brazil and producers in Europe have risen sharply. Brazil, one of the leading suppliers of meat to China over the past year, saw the number of beef suppliers authorised by Beijing rise to 37 in December from 15 in August, according to Gro Intelligence, the commodity data company.


Australian beef exports to China surged 81 per cent...


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