African Swine Fever map

As of early 2019, China has reported more than 100 cases of African swine fever in 19 provinces and four municipalities, including Beijing, according to the Pork Checkoff’s Foreign Animal Disease Preparation Bulletin.

Recent outbreaks have been reported in Guangdong and Fujian provinces. However, a new case in the north’s Heilongjiang province has affected a farm with 73,000 pigs, the largest farm yet to report a case of the disease.

On Dec. 25, Chinese officials announced the detection of the ASF virus in some protein powders made using pork blood manufactured by a Tianjin- based company. The raw materials for the batches were from 12 slaughter and processing plants in Tianjin. The new ASF case occurred despite the farm banning food waste and pig blood as raw materials in the production of feed for pigs, in a bid to halt the spread of the disease.

In a related move, China recently announced that slaughterhouses will need to run a test for ASF virus on pig products before selling them. Slaughterhouses must slaughter pigs from different origins separately. They can only sell the products if blood of the same batch of pigs is tested negative for African swine fever virus.

If an ASF outbreak is found, slaughterhouses must cull all pigs to be slaughtered and suspend operations for at least 48 hours, according to the regulation, which will go into effect Feb. 1.

In a worst-case scenario, Chinese farmers could end up cutting back stocks in 2019 by 20 percent, or about 140 million hogs based on 2017 slaughter numbers, according to Rabobank.

“Some are unable to continue breeding due to huge losses, while some have begun to cull breeding sows,” Pan Chenjun, a senior analyst with Rabobank in Hong Kong, said in an interview with Bloomberg.

Bloomberg reported pork prices have been hammered as farms increase slaughtering to avoid contamination, bolstering supply. By the middle of December, prices in northeast provinces had fallen 31 percent from a year earlier and 15 percent in the north, according to data published by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs.

One of the country’s major hog breeders, Henan province’s Muyuan Foodstuff Co. said in a filing last week that 2018 net profit could drop by as much as 79 percent after the disease interrupted transport of live hogs from major producing regions.

Wens Foodstuffs Group Co., another top pig breeder, said profit may shrink about 41 percent, according to Bloomberg

But the reduction in restocking could help prices turn around in the second half of the year as supply becomes constrained, according to Zhu Zengyong, a researcher at the Agriculture Information Institute of the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences. It could also lead to an increase in pork purchases from overseas, according to both Zhu and Pan.

In Europe, even with government intervention against the spread of African swine fever in Belgium’s wild boar herd, authorities think it’s a matter of time before the disease makes its way across the country’s far southern border into neighboring France.

Currently, infected wild pigs could be as close as 3 kilometers from the French border, which is within the distance the disease can travel in one month in infected wild populations. For their part, the French have stepped up surveillance on their side of the border and also have built fences at the border to keep wild boars from entering the country.