China's agriculture minister Han Changfu urged authorities to prevent a recurrence in African swine fever (ASF) outbreaks. The agriculture ministry issued a statement on Monday where it urged relevant departments to work to achieve this year's pig production recovery goal. After the African swine fever knocked out 21% of pork production last year, China released more than 2,00,000 tons of frozen pork from state reserves.
According to the ministry's statement, China's pig herd shrank notably in the past year, pushing up prices of pork and its alternatives after it was hit by outbreaks of African swine fever. The country began to import meat products from 16 more countries in 2019, with imported meat hitting 5.49 million metric tons in the first 11 months, climbing 42 per cent year-on-year, customs data showed. In November alone, the country imported 6,44,000 tons of meat, surging 82 per cent year-on-year, while pork imports increased 151.2 per cent year-on-year to stand at 2,30,000 tons, the ministry said.
As the staple meat is key to many traditional dishes for the Lunar New Year, the country has announced various measures including boosting imports to ensure holiday supply. The country's pork-related imports were expected to top 3 million tons in 2019, while meat imports were estimated to exceed 6 million tons, according to the Ministry of Commerce. Among the incentives to encourage meat imports, the country recently removed a ban on imports of Japan's deboned beef, while import tax on frozen pork was cut from 12 per cent to 8 per cent starting from this year, the statement added.
Ever since the fatal pig disease has hit China's pork herd in August 2018, as much as half of the country cattle is knocked out of the market. According to reports, millions of pigs have died from or been killed to control the African swine fever in China and other Asian countries like Vietnam. The spread of the disease in China, the world's top pork consumer has affected the global food chain as the country is also one of the largest exporters of the meat.