ASF causes retail price of pork to soar by over 80% in China

The retail price of pork products in China has soared by over 80% since the outbreak of African swine fever (ASF) in the country.

Speaking to AgriLand at today’s Teagasc National Pig Conference, Ciaran Carroll, head of Knowledge Transfer in Teagasc’s Pig Development Department, confirmed that ASF has driven Irish pork exports and prices up significantly.

He outlined: “In Ireland, from March 2019, we’ve seen a 20-year low in terms of margin over feed go to a 20-year high. So it’s driving up the price of pigmeat.”

However, he noted: “The rise in price has not been noticeable in Irish retail outlets”; but said “the return the farmer is getting is a lot better than it was”.

Teagasc suggests the margin over feed should be around 50c/kg. In March 2019 it was at 28c/kg. Now it’s close on 80c/kg margin over feed which is a huge boost to the industry.

Commenting on the virus, he said: “ASF is a deadly virus with up to 100% mortality rate and it is spreading rapidly through China and is present in parts of eastern Europe. It has been an endemic in sub-Saharan Africa and parts of South America for years.

“Since August 2018, it has gone like wildfire through the Chinese pig herd and that’s the big factor in driving up our prices here.

It’s a virus so it will travel in the air but pig contact is a major factor in its spread also.

He noted that a factor contributing to its spread is “backyard pig production”.

Carroll explained: “Backyard set-ups in China are feeding swill from the house and if it contains contaminated meat then it will affect the pigs.

At the moment, we would be recommending no pigmeat products going into farm canteens.

Commenting on pigmeat being imported to Ireland, Carroll noted: “We import something like 100,000t of pigmeat.

We have eastern European shops in Ireland and we are aware that some of them are selling home-produced meat and this is also a risk factor.

However, he acknowledged: “We export 60% of out pork produce so we can’t complain about imports.”

He noted that Teagasc is currently trying to create awareness in the industry about biosecurity on farms.

He said that when people arrive on flights in some country’s, they receive a notification about not bringing meat product into the country and said “maybe making public announcements on flights is something we could do here in Ireland”.