Pig apartment blocks could help China rebuild its herd after 200 million died from swine flu


         The world's pig population halved when China lost 200 million pigs to African swine fever in 2018

         Chinese companies are eyeing secure, multi-storey farms to prevent a similar catastrophe

         Demand for Australian beef, lamb and grains could drop as the pig herd regrows


By Lucas Forbes, SA Country Hour (Australia)

Oct 15, 2020


China could turn to more apartment block-style pig farms to help future-proof the world's largest pig herd against African swine fever.


Pork is a staple food in China, but over the past two years an outbreak of the disease has killed about half of the country's pigs, driving up the price of pig products.


Private pig company Guangxi Yangxiang is building a high-rise pig city on China's Mount Yaji that could produce 840,000 pigs a year when complete.


The farms are designed to be sealed off from the rest of the world to prevent contamination, with measures including chutes for dead pigs and on-site housing for workers so they do not run the risk of introducing pathogens.


Robert Herrmann, managing director of market analysts Mecardo, said the farms were unlike anything else in the world.


"We've seen evidence of multi-storey piggeries that look like apartment blocks," he said.


"They're completely contained so the biosecurity standards are at a level almost unseen in any other areas of the world and those sort of efforts are going to allow them to increase their pig herd very quickly.


"It's also going to mean that that pig herd is far more secure and safer than what it was pre-African swine fever."


The losses of pigs in China alone reduced the world's pig population by half, driving up demand internationally for alternative proteins like beef and lamb.


Mr Herrmann said that had been good news for Australian commodity prices as China scrambled for alternative proteins.


"We already had really strong growth in our red meat exports to China pre-African swine fever, so that growth trajectory was turbocharged when African swine fever hit," he said.


"The demand for the grains is at the moment being driven by this China appetite for stockpiling."


However, Mr Herrmann said there had been signs, such as a move to more sophisticated farms, that China's herd was rebuilding which could cause prices to fall.


"We've seen that there's the evidence of breeding sows being transferred and shipped from Germany across to China, that's always been happening, but it's certainly happening in greater numbers at the moment," he said...