ASF Has Changed World Pork Trade


African swine fever has dramatically changed the face of international pork trade over the last five years.

Maria Zieba, Vice President of International Affairs, National Pork Producers Council, said that there are two main reasons why a foreign animal disease affects international trade. A country might fear getting the disease, so it will take precautions and stop exports from other countries if it doesn't understand the science or is reluctant to understand or follow international standards for regionalization, she said.

Another reason for halting exports is that a country may want to protect its own food security by not becoming too dependent on imports. This includes protecting its domestic industry, she said. This political decision has been used many times to prevent other countries from exporting to it, Zieba added.

ASF trade effects

In the last five years, as African swine fever (ASF) spread throughout Europe and into Asia, there has been a shift in global pork supplies and trade, Zieba explained.

China used to be a large customer for pork from Germany, importing USD $635 million in 2018. That's gone down to almost zero because Germany has ASF and China does not recognize regionalization, she said.

Zieba noted that this created a shift and other countries like Spain have taken the China market share away from Germany. Countries that still have market access to China include Denmark, Brazil, United Kingdom and the United States; countries that do not have ASF.

It doesn't mean that Germany is not exporting, she explained, it just means that they're not exporting outside the European Union (EU). Germany is backfilling for those EU countries that still export to China.

Another example of the shift in pork trade is Mexico, which has doubled its pork exports in the last five years. In 2017, Mexican pork exports were valued at USD $578 million. In 2021, Mexico exported pork valued at USD $1 billion, Zieba said.

“What we're starting to see is a lot more production of pork in the countries where they're ASF free and able to capitalize and export to countries where they hadn't been key players like China and other parts of Asia, like Japan,” she said.

This has also meant an increase in consumption of other proteins, Zieba noted. “As consumer prices for pork have increased in a lot of these ASF positive countries we've seen consumers shift to other protein sources like poultry or beef or seafood,” she added.

US: ASF free

The United States is one of the world’s top exporters of pork and pork products. In 2022 the US exported USD $7.6 billion dollars of pork to over 100 countries, Zieba said. She clarified that the US exports more pork to the 20 countries that it has free trade agreements with than to the rest of the world combined. For example, China is a large export market for US pork, even though there is no US/China free trade agreement, she added.

Zieba said that in the United States, the number one priority right now is preparedness and prevention of ASF. The US exports over 23% of its pork production and needs to do everything possible to make sure that ASF does not reach its shores, she emphasized.