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Global pork output projected to drop 8% in 2020 due to ASF, COVID-19

Despite anticipated small production contraction, FAO says the United States will likely see its exports surge by 13%.

For the second year in a row, world pork output is forecast to take a sharp contraction, falling to 101 million metric tons in 2020, or 8% less than in the previous year. While much of the global decline is expected to come from China, Vietnam and the Philippines due to African swine fever, the Food and Agricultural Organizations of the United Nations has also included the United States on that list due to COVID-19 supply chain disruptions. As for output increases, the FAO has its eyes on the European Union, the United Kingdom, Brazil, the Russian Federation, Mexico and Canada.

According to the FAO's Food Outlook report, a biannual report on global food markets, the spread of ASF in China is largely behind the predicted 20% fall in pork output to 35 mmt, following a 21% reduction in 2019. ASF outbreaks are also to blame for the projected decreases in Vietnam and the Philippines, while a smaller pig herd in the Ukraine is the reason for the output decrease there. In the United States, the negative production outlook comes from COVID-19 market disruptions.

The FAO says in the EU and the UK, strong import demand, especially from China, is supporting an expansion in pork production. In Brazil, stable feed costs and large herd numbers are sustaining production, while in the Russian Federation growth is happening due to large-scale investments in new breeding and processing facilities.

"The impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic have been felt — at varying degrees — across all food sectors assessed by FAO. While COVID-19 has posed a serious threat to food security, overall, our analysis shows that from the global perspective, agricultural commodity markets are proving to be more resilient to the pandemic than many other sectors. That said, owing to the size of the challenge and the enormous uncertainties associated with it, the international community must remain vigilant and ready to react, if and when necessary," says Boubaker Ben-Belhassen, director of the FAO Trade and Markets Division.

Rising imports in Asia
According to the report, world pork exports are forecast at 10.6 mmt in 2020, up 11.2% from last year, largely driven by anticipated imports by China, along with expected moderate increases in purchases by Vietnam, the Philippines, Chile and Ukraine.

In China, pork imports are expected to rise by 1.2 mmt or 42% in 2020, to reach 4.1 mmt, which equates to 40% of the global volume of trade in pork. Imports by the Philippines and Vietnam are also expected to rise due to the production shortfalls caused by ASF. Limited domestic supplies are also expected to increase imports by Ukraine. However, the FAO is forecasting the Republic of Korea will reduce its pork purchases due to a contraction in domestic foodservice sales.

Much of the expanded world pork imports in 2020 are anticipated to be met by the United States, the EU, the UK, Brazil, Canada, Mexico and Chile, the FAO says. Despite the anticipated small production contraction, the United States will likely see its exports surge by 13%, with the bulk directed to China, Mexico, Japan, Canada, the Republic of Korea and Australia.

In the EU and the UK, increased pork supplies have stemmed from falling domestic pork consumption and rising production. The FAO says this may lead to larger exports, especially to China, in the wake of newly signed agreements between China and key EU suppliers. The organization says Brazil's pork exports could also rise, due to increased deliveries to China, although sales to other trading partners may fall.

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