Swine fever to hit pork market for years

African Swine Fever
African Swine Fever. AFP

HANOI -- Millions of pigs have been culled as African Swine Fever cuts through China and beyond, devastating global food chains, with pork prices expected to soar from the food markets of Hong Kong to American dinner tables.

Outbreaks have been reported in Vietnam, Mongolia, Cambodia, Hong Kong and China -- the world’s biggest pork producer and consumer.

Experts warn it could take years to contain the hog-killing virus given the differing biosecurity standards on commercial pig farms and backyard smallholdings across Asia.

Checkpoints, sniffer dogs and strict import bans have been deployed in a desperate bid to control its spread.

But the disease has already hit most provinces in China, reducing pork production by 30 percent according to some estimates.

Beijing’s official statistics say around one million pigs have been killed since the first outbreak in August last year -- but that is widely considered to be an underestimate.

Live pig prices are up by around 40 percent year-on-year in China, and pork imports from Europe, Canada and Brazil into the country are climbing.

Beef and poultry exports are also on the rise as suppliers scramble to fill the deficit in a region where pork is the staple protein --  fried, grilled, boiled and eaten by tens of millions each day in noodle bowls and rice dishes.

Some Asian consumers have already started paying more for pork.

And America is also soon expected to feel the pinch -- likely around Christmas when people buy holiday hams.

“The price impact will be sizeable,” said Christine McCracken, senior animal protein analyst at Rabobank, speaking from the US.