African swine fever hit northern China hard in the first quarter of this year or spread to the south

After more than a year of silence in mainland China, African swine fever made a comeback in the first quarter of this year with an outbreak in northern China that has led to at least a 20% drop in China’s breeding population and a rise in piglet prices, costing the pig industry more than expected. Analysts are concerned that this wave of swine fever outbreak could spread to the south as the rainy season approaches in mainland China.

Reuters reported on April 1, citing Jan Cortenbach, chief technical officer of feed producer Wellhope-De Heus Animal Nutrition, that at least 20 percent, and possibly 25 percent, of the hog stock in northern China was affected by the outbreak of African swine fever in the first quarter.

According to the report, the outbreak of African swine fever in northern China after more than a year of silence is mainly related to the unusually cold winter between the end of last year and the beginning of this year, as well as the emergence of a new strain of swine fever. The recovery of China’s pig industry after last year has significantly increased the density of pigs, which is one of the reasons for the spread of the new wave of swine fever outbreak.

The current wave is mainly in northern China, especially in the northeast, and also in Henan province, but industry insiders are concerned that swine fever could affect the south as the second rainy season approaches.

The Reuters report also quoted the China-based manager of a company that supplies large hog producers as saying that several of its customers in northern China have lost thousands of sows to swine fever in recent months, and some have even lost more than half of their breeding stock. The manager said bluntly, “It feels like 2018 and 2019 all over again.”

Mainland China had a serious outbreak of African swine fever in August 2018 and lasted for a year, causing the Chinese pig industry to lose half of its pig stock in one year. At the time, large pig farms had mass slaughtered sick pigs and pig farms across the country had reduced the number of pigs raised, and the outbreak did not begin to ease until late 2019, after which it subsided for a year until it resumed in the first quarter of this year.

In addition, a report released last month by Beijing Orient-Eagle Agricultural Consulting Co. showed that sow stock in northern China fell by 25 to 30 percent in March compared to February, and a report released on Monday by Founder Intermediate Futures, a large integrated futures company in China, said that the swine fever epidemic has caused a loss of about 20 to 30 percent of sows in Henan Province that can reproduce normally. The loss of sows in Henan Province, which can reproduce normally, is about 20% to 30% and may be “irreversible”.

A report issued by Cheung Kong Securities this week pointed out that although pig prices fell sharply from January to March this year, the price of piglets is rising as the number of breeding pigs falls due to the swine fever epidemic. According to this report, the current average price per piglet has exceeded 1,800 RMB, almost double the price of 995 RMB in November last year.