Wednesday, March 17, 2021

China ASF Resurgence with Stocking Density and Cold Weather

A resurgence of African swine fever during the winter months has interrupted the rebound of China's hog industry. The slowdown cooled off surging corn prices and sent soybean meal prices into a tailspin. 

According to surveys conducted by the "My Ag Commodities" site, sow numbers fell about 3-4 percent each month in January-February 2021 as hog production capacity suffered losses to varying degrees in regions across China. African swine fever and piglet diarrhea increased death rates, and panicked farmers sent numerous juvenile pigs to the abattoir, contributing to the recent decline in hog prices. With sow numbers declining and piglet prices rising in March, pork supplies are likely to be tight again in six months when the peak consumption season returns. 

Source: China National Bureau of Statistics raw material purchase prices.

A veterinary advice column blames the resurgence of ASF on the increased stocking density of animals, extremely cold weather, and appearance of new strains of ASF. Farmers became complacent in 2019 when ASF seemed to disappear. But with the rebuild of the swine herd in 2020, the greater density of animals aided the spread of the virus. The author notes that ASF virus contagion slowed in warm weather. As winter arrived, the effectiveness of disinfection and animals' resistance weakened. China has had the coldest winter in recent memory, with temperatures plunging as low as -30C (-22F) in northern regions. New strains of the ASF virus have appeared--strains spread by illegal vaccines as well as naturally-occurring attenuated strains. With dense pig populations and cold weather, the author wrote, one farm's infection quickly spreads throughout an entire region. 

The veterinary author notes that a targeted culling technique for stopping ASF outbreaks as soon as they are recognized had worked well in 2019 but is now failing. The author warned farms to sanitized stalls neighboring those where infected animals were discovered, avoid moving gilts into farrowing barns too early in view of the long incubation period of new strains, be vigilant in monitoring and testing herds, send managers into barns, and ensure that all employees understand and adhere to biosecurity requirements. 

The average Chinese corn price rose relentlessly in 2020, but it plateaued in 2021 as swine numbers fell and substitution of wheat and imported grains eased the demand for corn. Soybean meal prices fell as swine inventories peaked and substitution of wheat for corn reduced the need for high-protein soy meal in feed rations. However, soy meal prices remain well above last year and are about 1000 yuan/mt higher than they were in the peak panic-slaughter two years ago in the first ASF epidemic.

Source: China National Bureau of Statistics raw material purchase prices.

Source: China National Bureau of Statistics raw material purchase prices.

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