Asia Minute: China’s Pig Virus Pressures Pork Prices

Apr 19, 2019

Credit justin phillips / CC BY 2.0 / Flickr

For people who celebrate Easter this weekend, ham could be on the menu. It’s one food item that’s likely to see prices move higher in coming months — mostly because of what’s going on in China.

If you think the price of ham seems a little steep these days, it’s not your imagination. Bloomberg reports the retail price of boneless ham is at its highest level in four years, and that’s not all.

Wholesale pig prices in the European Union have surged 16% in two months. It’s even worse in China, where an agriculture ministry official said this week that pork prices may spike by more than 70% in the second half of this year.

It’s all because of a devastating virus — African swine fever.

China is the world’s largest producer of pork. That production fell 5% in the first quarter of this year according to government figures, and is headed even lower.

Global investors are paying attention. The Dutch financial firm Rabobank predicts China will double its imports of pork this year compared to last — to more than 2 million tons.

That’s putting pressure on prices. Japan’s Nomura International says pork prices within China have already risen 40% since last May.

Several financial firms predict the pig problems will boost inflation at the consumer level in China, which could bring further complications to the world’s second largest economy – already growing at its slowest pace in nearly 30 years.