Chinese authorities on Thursday said the spread of African swine fever, which has ravaged the country’s pig population, is slowing significantly, despite suggestions from analysts and insiders that the government is underestimating the impact of the outbreak.
“Overall, the incidence of African swine fever has slowed markedly, and the production and distribution of live pigs is gradually returning to normal”, vice-agriculture minister Yu Kangzhen said on Thursday.
Mr Yu said there had only been 44 new cases in 2019, and that the number of outbreaks had been “in the single digits” in every month this year except April. “In comparison, neighbouring Vietnam has seen over 3,000 cases”.
He said that took the total number of cases reported in China to 143 since the first outbreak was reported last year, with 1.16m pigs culled to date.
However, industry insiders say official numbers could significantly underestimate the scale of the outbreak. Farmers have been known to send entire herds to the slaughterhouse, rather than report signs of the disease to the government and receive meagre compensation.
And while Mr Yu’s comments suggest that the situation may be stabilising, analysts expect further falls in the country’s pig population as the disease takes its toll.
JPMorgan expects “China’s pig stock decline to continue and pork production to drop 25 per cent in 2019, equivalent to a 13.5m tonne shortage in pork meat production.”
Meanwhile, Rabobank has estimated that a third of China’s national pig stock, the biggest in the world, could be wiped out by the disease this year.
African swine fever has also resulted in a sharp uptick in inflation, with consumer price rises hitting their highest level in 15 months in May. Most of the rise has been driven by pork prices, which rose nearly 20 per cent on tighter supply.