‘5 years’ needed for Chinese pork production to recover from ASF

It will take over five years for China’s pork production to recover fully from the impact of African swine fever (ASF) – which will be “time enough for consumers to get used to less pork and more other proteins in their dishes”, according to estimates made by Rabobank.

This will lead to Chinese consumers looking to other sources of protein to fill the void left by the losses sustained by the national Chinese pig herd.

According to Rabobank in a June update statement on the matter, it is extremely difficult to estimate the losses to its production – but the impact has been keenly felt.

The losses in China’s pig herd are very difficult to estimate – estimated losses range from 20% to 70%.

“Data from the Chinese Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs (MARA) has the sow herd down by 22% in the year to April – this is one of the most optimistic estimates we have seen.”

The bank notes that there is declining pork consumption “due to concerns held by consumers and processors over food safety” in the country, estimating that consumption is down on average by 10-15%.

It was noted that Chinese food processing, particularly branded consumer foods, may have already shifted to imported pork or other animal proteins such as poultry, as product ingredients.

Chicken breast meat, which is heavily used in meat processing and foodservice, has seen large price increases this year, and is up by 44% year-on-year in May.

The prices of beef, sheep meat, and chicken meat in food retail markets have increased more modestly, and are up by 6%, 11% and 8% year-on-year in May.

This, according to the bank, implies that pork substitution is mainly occurring in the food processing and food service channels, and largely based on the perception of consumers’ food safety concerns.

Looking forward, and reflecting on the current situation with ASF and our outlook for its impacts this year and next, it is possible that we have seen the peak in pork consumption.

“We hold the view that it will take over five years for China’s pork production to recover fully from ASF,” the bank’s statement said.

This will be time enough for consumers to get used to less pork and more other proteins in their dishes, accelerating the trend away from pork consumption as seen in recent years.

“However, even with the declining pork share, we believe pork will continue to be the major protein consumed in China,” Rabobank concluded.