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China’s hog herd down nearly 17% in February

DarcyMaulsby/iStock/Thinkstock hogs in finishing barn
USDA says significant restocking or expansion not foreseen until latter half of 2019.

Although there continue to be differing reports between government and industry on how many hogs have actually been lost due to African swine fever (ASF), Reuters is reporting that data released March 15 from China’s Ministry of Agriculture & Rural Affairs showed that the Chinese hog herd was 16.6% smaller than last year in February. China’s hog inventory is currently estimated at 433 million head.

The ministry reported that the sow herd alone declined 19.1% in February from the prior year, while the total pig herd was down 5.4%. The sow herd was 5% lower than January, Reuters noted.

According to a U.S. Department of Agriculture report, China has reported 115 ASF outbreaks to the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), covering all commercially significant swine-producing regions. China has reported roughly 1 million swine culled as of March 11, 2019, but USDA said it is likely that this vastly underestimates the total number of outbreaks and animals culled across China.

While it is still unclear if ASF outbreaks will continue to be reported with the same frequency and geographic distribution, USDA said the disease has already taken a toll on China’s swine and pork production for 2019.

“By the end of 2019, the total swine inventory will be down 13% to 374 million head,” USDA said.

USDA estimated that China’s pork production will decrease by 5% to 51.4 million metric tons, with the reduced supply only slightly offset by weakened demand. To cover that domestic supply gap, USDA expects China to increase pork imports by 33% to 2 mmt.

U.S. pork products are still facing retaliatory tariffs in China, which also requires ractopamine-free pork. USDA noted that if these issues are removed, U.S. producers could significantly increase exports to China.

“In a country where half of the world’s pigs reside and half of the world’s pork is consumed, ASF has brought significant changes and will continue to affect swine and pork production for the foreseeable future,” the agency reported.

The USDA report relayed that Chinese breeders have reduced their inventories, and normal business transactions have been put on hold. A significant restocking or expansion is not foreseen until the latter half of 2019 and most likely won't occur until late 2019 at the earliest, the report suggested.

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