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Hog disease in China pushing up pork prices in Europe

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While EU pig farmers are making more money, it's also spurring higher bratwurst bills for European grillers.

London

EUROPEANS may have to shell out more for barbecues this summer as a hog disease decimates herds halfway around the world.

Farmers in China and its neighbours are grappling with outbreaks of deadly African swine fever, boosting demand for foreign meat.

Producers in the European Union - the world's top shipper - have been among the biggest winners this year, with sales to China climbing 43 per cent through May.

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While that's a boon for pig farmers, it's also spurring higher bratwurst bills for European grillers. A gauge of pork prices in Denmark is the highest since 2017 and a similar measure in Spain is at the loftiest in a decade, government data show. In France, an industry group for butchers and processors called the pork situation a "crisis," saying many members are renegotiating prices with retailers and charcuteries to cover surging costs.

Rising wholesale prices aren't immediately reflected at the checkout, but the increases may make shops less likely to put sausages on sale for summer cookouts.

"During barbecue season, there's typically packs of cheap pork to tempt shoppers into the store," said Rupert Claxton, meat director at consultant Gira.

EU residents are some of the world's top pork consumers, and prices may stay high for a while yet.

The bloc's exports are seen climbing about 12 per cent this year and next as China buys more, the European Commission forecasts, and domestic consumption will wane as some shoppers select cheaper options such as chicken.

The impact of China's hog losses on global pork prices "is likely to continue for many more months", France's agriculture ministry said this week. BLOOMBERG