African Swine Fever: Animal Disease and Trade Disputes Converge on the Global Stage

By Will Sawyer

October 2018

Key Points

  • African Swine Fever (ASF) is spreading throughout China, the world’s top producer and consumer of pork.
  • The disease outbreak, complicated by a current trade dispute with the U.S., is pushing China’s hog prices higher. This could force a shakeup of the global pork market, with implications for China, the U.S., the European Union and other pork-producing countries.
  • Poultry has fallen out of favor with Chinese consumers. There is little indication that lower-priced chicken will be accepted as a substitute for pork.
  • U.S. soybean growers are also feeling the pinch as Chinese pork producers reduce tariff-heavy purchases of beans used for hog feed. Soybean trade may suffer permanent damage since the Chinese are seeking alternatives to U.S.-sourced commodities.
  • A global market shakeup could provide new opportunities for the U.S. pork sector to fill demand gaps on the world market and relieve pent-up domestic supplies.

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What is African Swine Fever?


First emerging in Kenya early in the 20th century, the virus afflicts swine with hemorrhaging, fever, a loss of appetite and energy, red or purple skin patches, skin ulcers, breathing problems, plus diarrhea and bloody vomiting.

The virus is highly contagious and resistant. It can be spread through many forms of contact, such as being inhaled through the air or carried by ticks. It stays in the environment for months and is transmitted to animals through contact with infected hogs, contact with contaminated clothing or objects — and even through eating infected meat.

Most infected animals die within 10 days. There are no known cures or vaccines.

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