In the last 30 days, ASF has officially claimed more territory across all parts of Asia. Today, according to official statistics by the Food and Agriculture Organization, you can find ASF in Cambodia, China, Laos, Mongolia, North Korea and Vietnam—and experts predict its relentless march will continue.
Numbers Are Staggering
In Vietnam alone, officials report more than 2.5 million pigs have been culled from the national herd due to ASF. The disease has spread to nearly every province. In a country of 95 million people where pork makes up 75% of total meat consumption, this reality spells trouble.
Meanwhile in China, the picture does not look too much better despite the government’s ongoing efforts and that by large private producers. The nation’s swine herd shrank 21% on the year in April to a level not seen since the early 1990s, according to agriculture ministry data. Dutch lender Rabobank forecasts the herd will decline between 20% and 30% in 2019 from the previous year when China recorded a herd of 428 million head.
According to Pan Chenjun, a senior analyst at Rabobank, Chinese farmers have yet to heed authorities’ calls to replenish their herds, as they are worried they could lose their stock again due to the disease. “In theory, it requires two to three years to have a recovery of stock, but if you look at other countries’ experiences with ASF, we can take it that for China it will take more than five years,” she said.
However, there have recently been several notable announcements of major expansions of swine herds in China. New Hope Liuhe, a Chinese integrator, has announced plans to add 1.6 million head to its herd across three provinces. Likewise, China’s second-largest pork producer, Muyuan Foods says it will continue to increase production this year, despite ASF. These two companies and others such as WH Group, are pinning expansion hopes based on the nation’s reduced supply, which they see as profitable now and into the foreseeable future.
Meanwhile, the disease’s toll on China’s swine herd continues to reach epic proportions with recent estimates pegging current and future losses related to ASF at more than 200 million pigs. Even more dire than this is the seeming inability of the country’s pig farmers and veterinarians to successfully repopulate farms and keep them from breaking with ASF again even after they have been depopulated, cleaned, disinfected and left idle for months. This has led to pork shortages and reports of some outlets having to switch to alternative proteins such as chicken or seafood.
In a report by China’s Ministry of Agriculture from earlier this year, a study of 68 Chinese outbreaks found that vehicles and workers are the most common way that ASF spreads. (See pie chart.) Feeding swill and transporting live pigs or pork with ASF contamination are also key methods of ASF transmission.
Laos Now Positive, Vietnam Losses Continue
On June 20, the agriculture ministry of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic (Laos) reported its first-ever cases of ASF to the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE). Outbreaks were confirmed among seven small herds of village pigs. All the cases were in the same district of Salavan, a province in south-central Laos that borders Vietnam to the east and Thailand to the west. The source of the infection is unknown, but nearly all regions of nearby Vietnam are ASF positive.
Authorities in Laos report that movement controls have been put in place, and disinfection is being carried out in the affected area. Intensive surveillance there and across the country is to be stepped up, and a stamping-out policy will be followed.
With Vietnam positive for ASF for about four months now and Cambodia for more than two months, production losses are mounting and causing much nervousness in adjoining Thailand. To this end, the Thai government approved $4.7 million toward strengthening the country’s defense against ASF, according to a Bloomberg report. Thailand produces over 2 million hogs each year, and exports about 40% to Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar. It doesn’t import live hogs or pork and visitors are not permitted to bring processed pork products into the country.
Meanwhile, the spread of ASF in Vietnam continues to worsen as 2 million domestic pigs have been culled. The virus has spread to 48 provinces, including Dong Nai, which supplies around 40% of the pork consumed in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam’s southern economic hub.