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Expert: African swine fever will change face of animal ag

With no signs of a solution, ASF will continue to demand the attention of the global meat market for as far as any statistical information would indicate.

Businessman hand drawing supply and demand balance concept.
Businessman hand drawing supply and demand balance concept.

As countries continue to announce new outbreaks of African swine fever (ASF), the world's livestock industry sits in anticipation of what’s next and what it could mean for trade and production.

“ASF is going to change the face of animal ag and the protein accretion industry for the rest of our lives,” said Joe Kerns, president at Kerns and Associates during the Egg Industry Center Issues Forum in Kansas City, Missouri, on April 16.

The per capita supply of the three major proteins in the U.S. are going sky high, he said.

“Global protein accretion is expected to continue to grow as well, however, our per capita consumption is at an absolute flat line,” he said.

U.S. producers will have to export their way out of this current situation, he said. Pork exports are expected to grow 8%, broilers 3%, and beef 7%.

Currently, all eyes are on China, he explained.

“Are we focused too much on China?” Maybe, he said, but he explained that the reason everyone is so focused on China is because statistically they have been the largest meat producer and specifically the largest pork producer.

Could ASF create US opportunity?

“If ASF is claiming roughly 40% of their herd on an annualized basis with no vaccine, no disease eradication opportunity whatsoever, it is largely impacting backyard farms and if backyard farms constitute about 50% of the Chinese production, are we going to get out of this anytime soon? No, this whole ASF thing has just left the gate, guys,” he said.

Kerns explained that with China’s ASF issues, no religious limitations on consumption practices, rising incomes, and a middle class that almost rivals the U.S. population in size – this could be an opportunity for U.S. exports to increase in China. But that’s not to say that other countries won’t try to seize on this opportunity.

“U.S. exports (of pork) in the fourth quarter are projected to be up 35%,” he said. “Whatever countries can stay clean (avoid ASF), have an absolutely prosperous outlook from anything we have ever seen in history."

Kerns also referenced reputable sources acknowledging that China’s decrease in protein would also impact the egg and dairy industries. He added that avian influenza will continue to affect poultry consumption in other countries, and potentially open doors for egg markets.

An improvement in the egg market might not be the first thing that comes to producers’ minds with they see news associated with ASF, however, Kerns said he believes it is going to happen. Producers will need to remain patient. 

If ASF hits the US

If ASF hits the U.S., it will be detrimental to the U.S. meat industry.

“We will have to lose 25% of our producers overnight,” he said.

Multiple leaders within the pork industry are working to put a plan into place should the U.S. get hit. Kerns said there is about a 3% chance of natural causes contaminating the U.S. with ASF.

If it happens, he said, everything about a rosy and prosperous pork market outlook goes out the window and suppliers will be impacted too.

“Everything about this scares the daylights out of me,” he said. 

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