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Finishing hogs at a feeder in a curtain-sided barn National Pork Board

Will China halt meat imports from Germany?

Germany confirmed its first case of African swine fever on Thursday; China is key market for its pork exports.

Nervousness is mounting over whether top pork consumer China will halt imports of the meat from Europe’s biggest producer on concerns about a pig-killing disease.

Germany, which counts on China for almost two-thirds of its pork exports, confirmed a case of African swine fever on Thursday. That’s already caused South Korea and Japan to suspend purchases, and Taiwan to begin inspecting the luggage of passengers from the European nation.

While there’s no official ban on trade with China yet, German sales to non-European Union nations have temporarily stopped, a German agriculture ministry spokesman said. That’s because most veterinary certificates for pork exports state that the country is free from ASF, and that’s no longer the case.

Talks are taking place with relevant nations so that Germany can continue exports from regions that are free from the disease, the spokesman said.

Germany's Pork Markets

The German case was detected in the corpse of a wild boar near the Polish border. A ban by China would deal a further blow to the European country, which has been struggling with the pandemic’s economic impact, and comes just days after the Asian nation said it’ll resume pork imports from some German meatworks that were earlier affected by the coronavirus.

A Chinese import ban on German suppliers or specific areas where the disease was found is inevitable, said Ma Chuang, deputy secretary general at the Chinese Association of Animal Science and Veterinary Medicine.

China, the world’s top hog producer, has also been battling swine fever in its own farms since first reporting an outbreak in 2018. That pushed the nation into a supply shortage after the disease slashed herds by about a half, driving up the country’s pork prices and meat imports to record highs.

Germany was China’s third-largest supplier of pork in the first half of this year, after the U.S. and Spain. A reduction in German supplies may benefit producers including the U.S. and Brazil, whose exports to China have been booming, said Lin Guofa, a senior analyst at Bric Agriculture Group.

December hog futures jumped to a six-month high in Chicago on Friday, heading for a 14% advance this week.

The German outbreak will lead China to reduce its imports from the country, as was the case for Belgian supplies in a similar case in 2018, Ma said. However, it will have a limited impact on the Asian nation’s breeding stock, as it buys those mostly from France and Denmark, he said.

--With assistance from Megan Durisin and Brian Parkin.
© 2020 Bloomberg L.P.
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