An increase of African swine fever internationally could present an opportunity for Australian red meat producers to fill supply gaps.
Australian Intercollegiate Meat Judging (ICMJ) team member Hamish Fuller toured the United States in January for a series of training events and competitions, and took the opportunity to investigate the US industry’s response to the global ASF pandemic.
Mr Fuller found that the opportunities available to the Australian and US livestock industries were different, with the American pork industry well positioned to ramp up production, while in Australia it is the beef and lamb sectors ready to provide protein alternatives to traditional pork consumers.
“There is an opportunity for Australia to capitalise on the increased demand for pork alternatives in China,” Mr Fuller said.
“It is estimated that China will increase alternative protein substitute imports by 1.4 million metric tonnes. This creates a significant opportunity for the US and Australian red meat industries.
“In the first half of 2019 Australia’s beef exports to China grew year-on-year by 68 per cent, according to data compiled by Meat & Livestock Australia, and this trend is expected to continue.”
To date ASF has been reported in more than 35 countries across three continents.
It has close to 100 per cent mortality with no known cure or vaccine available to prevent infection.
China, which produces half of the world’s pork, first detected ASF in August 2018 and has since suffered herd losses of up to 50 per cent, creating drastic supply shortfalls in Asian countries where pork is a dietary staple.
“China is facing momentous challenges in rebuilding their breeding herd,” Mr Fuller said.
“During the next one to three years it is predicted that the swine herd in China will continue to deteriorate, and this will consequently be followed by an increase in the prices of pork.
“It may take up to 12 years for Chinese production to return to 2018 levels.”
He said the US pork industry had responded by expanding its production, but with Australia already importing 50 per cent of its pork products, there was limited scope to rapidly increase production.
Mr Fuller said the American beef industry would also benefit from the crisis, with China accepting the US’s traceability system and lifting age restrictions on slaughter cattle.