Despite the emergence of new variants of African Swine Fever (ASF) virus and pressure from other diseases, China’s pig herd has recovered significantly after the huge losses incurred in 2019, according to a new report.

According to figures from Rabobank, China’s pig herd grew significantly in 2020, but has been stymied recently due to new variants and other challenges. However, it is believed the current sow herd is still 10% to 15% higher than a year ago​.

Furthermore, producers now have more confidence to restock even though ASF remains in some areas with strong piglet and sow prices being reported.

The Rabobank report predicts that China’s pork production will grow by 8% to 10% year on year in 2021 which in turn is expected to reduce the need for imports with an overall decline expected in Asian countries.

It says: “We believe pork production will continue to grow, as the sow herd has expanded on a year-on-year basis, despite the losses during the winter.​

“At the same time, we see all exporting countries looking to maintain trade with China.

“Price will be one major factor that determines which countries will maintain high pork trade flows to China in 2021, along with availability and geopolitical considerations,” the report states.​

However, feed prices for all species are expected to rise this year with the exception of layer feed which is predicted to decline ​

Rabobank says Chinese pig feed registered a 6.5% year on year rebound in 2020, driven by rapid herd rebuilding.

Slaughter weights also increased by 10% to 20% year on year, which further boosted pig feed use. As a result, it is expected demand for pig feed will increase by 11% on the year in China.

“Recent disease outbreaks and a large number of two-line cross-bred sows with low productivity will limit the pace of recovery.

“As large-scale integrated pig farms continue to gain market share, the proportion of in-house feed usage will rise,” the report says.

Demand for broiler feed is also expected to rise further in 2021, albeit at lower levels, which combined with pig feed is expected to result in a 6% rise in soyameal.​

Rabobank believes some 100m metric tons of soyabeans will need to be imported and crushed in China this year to fulfill the increased demand for all types of livestock feed, even though alternatives are being sought.