Comment: what the poultry sector can learn from the African Swine Fever crisis

By Matt Donald, pig & poultry farmer, north Yorkshire

Although I’m involved in the poultry side of our business, we also run a farrow to finish pig unit. My focus within recent articles has been poultry, however I feel I cannot let this month pass by without the mention of pigs. Mainly due to the severe outbreak of African Swine Fever in China, the disease is also present in Vietnam, Cambodia and may move further into Southern Asia

ASF can have devastating effects on farms, with high mortality rates. It’s ability to be transferred in blood, faeces and worryingly cured or uncooked meat, means it is very hard to control. Half of the worlds sow population is farmed within China, in both fantastic up to date facilities but also a lot of back yard animals. With all this in mind it is key that UK pig farmers implement very strict biosecurity at all times.

So far China has reported a loss of 20% of the sows to date and ASF is still not under control, which is going to create huge changes in the world protein market. Global pork prices are increasing at quite a pace as China looks to fill the gap in its loss of production, and this has some implications for poultry.

The demand for soya will be affected. With 10% of the world’s pigs gone there will likely be a drop in demand for soya beans, leading to (hopefully) some cheaper prices into the future. When it comes to filling the protein gap, there are already signs that China is importing more and more poultry. With chicken feet worth more per kilo than breast meat, surely this is an opportunity the UK needs to get involved with.

We are already increasing pork exports to China, so can we also push more UK chicken into China? This is especially relevant to cuts that are not as desirable to the British consumer to raise carcase value. The pork price will get to a level where the Chinese consumer will no longer wish to pay the price and look to poultry as their next best protein, something which may be a long-term move.

With all this in mind I feel the outlook for global demand of both chicken and pork is strong, it is up to processors to get ahead and find these markets outside of the EU. Equally the British government to enable us to access these markets also – although I don’t hold out much hope for the latter!

Earlier in May I presented at the South West Chicken Association, what a fantastic event this was and a great opportunity to learn from other speakers, as well as catch up with familiar faces within the industry.  With nearly 250 delegates in attendance, it was fantastic to see so much support, events like this are key learning opportunities to help progress your business.

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