Since African swine fever (ASF) was first discovered in China in August 2018, the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF) reported that officials have confirmed about 100 outbreaks of the disease in more than 40 provinces.
Although ASF does not pose a threat to human health, transportation restrictions on hogs and pork products and heavy news coverage of the disease have caused a slowdown in China's pork consumption, USMEF said.
“It’s very devastating for the Chinese domestic hog industry,” said Ming Liang, USMEF marketing director in China. “All that has negative impacts for the consumers.”
Ling said he has observed some decline in consumer demand for pork, mainly in China's largest cities, where a broader range of protein options are available. However, he said the decline is likely temporary, given that pork is such a long-standing and important staple in the Chinese diet.
He explained that Chinese consumers love pork, eating an average of 30-35 kg (66-77 lb.) every year, making it “the biggest meat protein in China."
According to USMEF, an opportunity for the U.S. pork industry could emerge if ASF leads to an increase in China's need for imported pork. For now, however, Liang noted that China's retaliatory tariffs on U.S. pork have pushed the import duty rate to 62%, compared to just 12% for other foreign suppliers.
Despite the steep tariffs, Liang said USMEF continues to work closely with core customers in China who are “die-hard U.S. fans” that still utilize U.S. pork despite this increase in costs.