China Says Its Sow Herd Still Growing, Despite Industry Reports to the Contrary

Posted on Thu, 03/18/2021 - 07:17

China’s sow herd edged 1% higher from January to February, with the herd now up 34.1% from year-ago, the country’s ag ministry said Thursday. The ministry also said that the country’s total sow herd had reached 95% of their levels at the end of 2017, before African swine fever (ASF) hit, and that its total hog inventories remains above 400 million head.

Reports of a resurgence of ASF within China holding back its rebuilding efforts have increased attention on such updates and made some a bit suspicious of China’s numbers. Shandong-based Yongyi Consulting has estimated that the sow herd has been declining each month since December, including a 4.99% fall in January and a 4.68% decline in February. Surveys conducted by the My Ag Commodities site show sow numbers fell about 3% to 4% each month in January-February 2021 as hog production capacity suffered losses to varying degrees in regions across China.

Dim Sums: Rural China Economics and Policy also reports a resurgence of ASF this winter interrupted the country’s hog industry rebound. Dim Sums reports ASF and piglet diarrhea increased death rates, and panicked farmers sent numerous juvenile pigs to the abattoir, contributing to the recent decline in hog prices. New strains of ASF, large-scale hog factories and extremely cold winter weather are all thought to be contributors to the resurgence.

With sow numbers declining and piglet prices rising in March, pork supplies are likely to be tight again in six months when the peak consumption season returns, according to Dim Sums.

China’s continued strong pork buys add to suspicions. Customs data released today shows the country imported 320,000 MT of pork during February, a 60,000 MT decline from Reuters’ estimate of January imports and a 28.3% jump from year-ago. Two months into the year, China has imported 700,000 MT of pork, a 26.2% rise from 2020 at this time. China has been auctioning off its frozen pork reserves and could be working to replenish those supplies.