African Swine Fever in China: turmoil ahead for food prices and the Chinese economy

Agriculture Livestock Animal diseases Disease management Food consumption Food accessibility China

African Swine Fever (ASF) has broken out in China, in what has been described as one of the biggest animal disease outbreaks ever seen. The disease is highly contagious, easily spread (although it is not transmissible to humans), incurable and almost always fatal. There is no vaccine available. As a result, the disease has spread to every province in China and has continued to spread through Asia, threatening pork production in a region where pork is often a staple protein. The Chinese Government has not responded to the crisis in an especially effective manner. Efforts to contain the disease have failed and, in some cases, have helped it to spread further, while measures to prevent panic have supressed information about where outbreaks are occurring, making it difficult to prevent its spread. As long as that continues, eradicating ASF will be very difficult. As a result of the outbreak, food prices are set to fluctuate globally, with protein prices rising and grain prices falling. Meanwhile, high protein prices will put pressure on the Chinese economy.

Key points:

  • China is experiencing an outbreak of African Swine Fever (ASF), which is devastating its pig farms.
  • The Chinese response to the crisis has not been well managed. Quarantine efforts have failed and a culture of secrecy around reporting outbreaks has made the epidemic harder to control.
  • China is the world’s biggest producer and consumer of pork and pig stocks have plummeted.
  • As a result of the ASF epidemic in China, global protein prices are set to increase significantly, while grain prices are likely to plummet due to reduced demand from Chinese farmers. The Chinese economy will face difficulties as meat prices increase.
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