… it is possible that millions of Chinese turned to other animal proteins, of the wild variety because of the pork shortage setting the stage for the outbreak of Coronavirus…



A Potential Cause Of The Coronavirus - Watch Those Meat Prices


Andrew Hecht, Seeking Alpha 

Feb. 11, 2020




·         Coronavirus could change behavior.


·         Cattle prices decline.


·         Hogs tank despite the shortage.


·         Coming into the peak season for demand.


I first traveled to China in the late 1980s. China was an emerging market in those days. As a commodities trader, China was a significant market participant in the raw material markets. Over the past decades, significant economic growth in the world's most populous nation transformed the Asian country into the demand side of the fundamental equation in the commodities asset class.


One of the first things I learned when visiting China was how different diets were from those in the western world. In food markets, the offerings were strange. Even in the most upscale restaurants, the translated menu contained dishes that included household pets and animals found only in a zoo in the United States. I was more than careful with the food I ingested during my many visits to China.


Feeding 1.4 billion people is no easy task. In 2019, the outbreak of African Swine Fever that killed millions of hogs in China created a devastating shortage of pork. China is the world's leading consumer of animal protein. The leadership dug deep into its strategic stockpiles of frozen pork to satisfy demand. However, rising prices and the lack of availability of pork likely caused many citizens in China to turn to alternatives. The latest scientific reports have suggested that ingesting some alternative animal proteins as the root cause of the Coronavirus. Over the past weeks, the number of cases and fatalities in China have been rising. Moreover, the virus has spread outside Chinese borders and threatens to become a pandemic…


Coronavirus could change behavior


I grew up in Brooklyn, N.Y. Each Sunday night, my family would go out for dinner and the choice was always Italian or Chinese food. The egg rolls, spareribs, beef with oyster sauce, shrimp with lobster sauce, and many other Sunday night treats were a far cry from the banquets in Beijing and other parts of China. While Peking duck was a treat, I would up quietly bury many of the other offerings under rice when the hosts were not looking to avoid eating delicacies like dog, cat, camel, bat, rodents, or the particularly scary "winter meat." To this day, I still do not know what creature yielded that particular selection that always seemed to turn up on the Lazy Susan in the middle of the banquet table. I became particularly adept at using chopsticks so as not to insult the Chinese honoring my visit.


Over the past few weeks, as the number of cases of Coronavirus grew, I wondered if it could be anyway related to the African Swine Fever that killed millions of pigs in China in 2019. The price of pork skyrocketed in China as the government released strategic reserves. At the same time, the trade war between the US and China and high levels of tariffs created a glut of pork in the US while a shortage in China likely caused people to turn to other proteins. Memories, or nightmares, of zoological treats, danced in my head. In a February 6 article in the Wall Street Journal, Katie Camero wrote, "The 2019 novel coronavirus marks the third leap of its kind in 20 years following the SARS virus, which moved from bats to a mammal called civet and then to humans beginning in 2002, and the Middle East respiratory syndrome, or MERS, which was transmitted from camels in 2012."


The bottom line is that it is possible that millions of Chinese turned to other animal proteins, of the wild variety because of the pork shortage setting the stage for the outbreak of Coronavirus. If scientists isolate the root of the virus and bats, camels, or other meats turns out to be the cause, those banquet tables, as well as daily nutrition, could change dramatically in the world's most populous nation. The serving of camel's penis (sliced the long way) I had lopped on my plate in Ulan Bator, Mongolia, could become an epicurean treat of the past. (For any of you wondering, that offering immediately went under a big lump of rice without even a thought of a sampling.)


I apologize to anyone who experienced any loss of appetite or worse from that disturbing recollection. Feeding 1.4 billion people in China is a matter of national security for the government. Many revolutions throughout history began when people went hungry. If Chinese turn solely to chicken, turkey, beef, lamb, and pork over the coming months and years, the prices of cattle and hog futures could move appreciably higher as the dinner menu choices narrow.


Cattle prices decline ...


Hogs tank despite the shortage ... 


Coming into the peak season for demand ...


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