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Spread of swine fever prompts China to import more pork

Beijing

CHINA will continue to import pork from the US and other countries as the spread of African swine fever reduces its domestic herd and tightens meat supply in the world's largest consumer, according to a senior Chinese agriculture ministry official.

"As the domestic pork supply is tightening, we will surely import pork to help balance supply, including from the United States," Yu Kangzhen, the vice-minister of agriculture and rural affairs, told reporters at a press conference. He didn't give any figures or estimates.

The news of an open market comes at a good time for US hog producers, who are battling the lowest wholesale prices for the time of year in a decade.

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Still, significant purchases may not eventuate because of the popularity of a pig feed additive in the US that's banned in China, according to Bloomberg Opinion. That may leave producers in Europe better placed to fill China's supply gap.

China's imports of pork and swine offal from the US in May jumped to the highest in at least a year, exceeding the level before Beijing's hefty 62 per cent retaliatory tariffs were imposed on US shipments in July last year, official customs data showed. The nation's total meat imports also hit a record in May as looming meat shortages drove up domestic prices.

China has culled 1.16 million hogs since African swine fever was first reported in August 2018. Of the 143 separate outbreaks of ASF in China since August, 44 were reported in the first half this year, indicating the spread of the disease is slowing, according to Mr Yu.

He said the ministry will strengthen its monitoring systems and crackdown on any attempts to cover-up outbreaks.

The State Council has ordered several government departments to take measures to stop the spread of the disease and help the recovery of domestic breeding. A rally in China's pork prices has also triggered concerns over the country's rising food inflation. BLOOMBERG