As ‘scary’ swine fever spreads, you may pay more for your meat

African swine fever has already shifted global trade patterns. The disruption may be long-term, writes Jennifer Wells.

The slaughter of as many as 200 million hogs in China. A border fence erected between Germany and Denmark. Pig carcases washing up on a beach in Taiwan. The first report of pig deaths in South Africa. Infected wild boars in Poland.

We haven’t been paying sharp attention to the African swine fever epidemic, which surprises Al Mussell, head of research at Agri-Food Economic Systems in Guelph. “I’m a little bit shocked,” he says. “I don’t think people have come around to what this could mean.”

We’re starting to. Last week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture released statistics for U.S. pork exports. In a single week an unprecedented 77,000 tonnes of pork were exported to China, a vast draw on U.S. production as China looks to replace pork production shortfalls. In an entire year, Mussell says, U.S. exports to China commonly fall between 100,000 and 200,000 tonnes.

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