UTRECHT‎, NETHERLANDS – Since 2018, African swine fever (ASF) has remained the top threat when it comes to the global protein market. However, as the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic continues to effect the world, its impact on meat production, consumption and trade can also be seen as a potential threat to the global market, according to a recent report from Rabobank’s RaboResearch Food & Agribusiness analysts.  

The report, “African Swine Fever: A Global Update” issued June 17, 2020, outlines how ASF continues to impact the global pork market, and what role the COVID-19 pandemic will play.

Regardless of what’s going on around the world with the pandemic and trade concerns, ASF is still the major influence on global pork markets, according to Rabobank.

“ASF continues to impact pig herds and restrict production in China, Vietnam, the Philippines and part of Eastern Europe,” the report said.

ASF continues to spread in China, but at a slower pace than seen previously, and so far in 2020 there have been no widespread outbreaks in China. Improved biosecurity has contributed to the reduction in outbreaks.

In Vietnam, ASF outbreaks continue in 19 of the country’s 63 provinces, with around 30,000 pigs lost in the first five months of 2020 (around 6 million pigs were lost in 2019).

The Philippines and Eastern Europe are currently seen as the biggest hot spots when it comes to ASF outbreaks. In the Philippines, ASF outbreaks have been steady in Luzon backyard farms with a loss of around 98,000 pigs in the first four months of 2020. Rabobank forecasts a 12% decline in sow and total herds in 2020.

“In our worst-case scenario, the disease spreads outside Luzon, and the 2020 sow herd drops by as much as 29% and total herd by 28%,” the report said.

China and Southeast Asia will continue to increase pork imports. China’s pork production is expected to decline by a further 15% to 20% in 2020, while in Vietnam and the Philippines, the declines will be closer to 10%. “Import demand will keep rising in these countries in 2020,” the report said.

Concerns over the spread of ASF in Europe remain high as the disease continues to spread around the Polish-German border. The disease entered two pig farms in Poland in late March, early April which led to the culling of more than 30,000 pigs. A third case at a commercial farm in eastern Poland was reported in early June. In the first five months of 2020, there were 2,487 cases among wild boars in Poland, which is more than all of the cases in 2019. While the infection rate among wild boars in Poland remains high, the cases in domestic pigs is limited.

Adding to the uncertainty of the pork market around the globe is the effect of COVID-19 on meat production and consumption. The temporary closure of pork plants around the United States, as well as in other countries around the globe, due to cases of coronavirus among employees is impacting pork, and overall meat production. In addition, with restaurants and other foodservice outlets being closed for a number of weeks during stay-at-home orders, pork and other protein demand has declined. Even with the shift from foodservice to retail grocery distribution, protein demand remains affected.

“While foodservice is now reopening in most parts of the world, and lifting demand as a result, a return of 2019 demand levels is unlikely in 2020,” the report said. “The economic slowdown triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic has reduced consumer confidence, and we expect prices will need to adjust to enable consumption to match availability.”

The ongoing adjustments in the pork market as a result of COVID-19 will continue to impact the global pork market as will the continued threat of ASF around the globe, however, according to Rabobank, ASF will have the larger long-term effect.

“Both COVID-19 and ASF are important in driving global pork markets,” Rabobank said. “It is our view that ASF will have more profound and long-lasting impacts on global animal protein markets than COVID-19.”