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Impact of ASF export bans in Europe and Germany

21st Sep 2020 / By Alistair Driver

The imapct of Germany's African swine fever (ASF) and subsequent export bans is having an impact on pork markets across the EU, according to AHDB analyst Bethan Wilkins.

wild boar 5A number of countries, including China, Singapore, Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, South Korea, Japan and South Africa have now imposed bans on German pork imports. German pork was also already banned from the Philippines because of ASF fears in mid-2019.

Germany shipped nearly 200,000 tonnes to China alone in the first four months of 2020 and has supplued about 14% of China’s pork imports so far this year. Some of the other countries on the list also import large volumes from Germany.

  • You can read Rebecca Veale's EU update from a COPA meeting in the Members' Area (Sep 16 entry) HERE
  • Keep up-to-date with all the latest ASF developments on the dedicated section on our website HERE

Pig prices in Germany fell sharply in response to the outbreak and subsequent bans. AMI quoted the VEZG Association price as €1.27/kg (£1.16/kg) for the week ended September 23, the same as last week but 14% down on the €1.47/kg (£1.35/kg) quoted for the week ended September 2, Ms Wilkins said.

"The loss of most export markets outside of the EU presents significant challenges with carcase balance, particularly for offal products. Staffing levels also remain a difficulty in German processing plants," she said.

"Reports indicate that prices in Belgium, Denmark and the Netherlands have also experienced some downward pressure, though not to the same extent as in Germany. Low priced pork from Germany is undercutting other suppliers within Europe, though the extent to which processors will be willing to buy this pork remains to be seen."

The upside is that processors with access to China now face the prospect of reduced competition on this market, which may prove price supportive.

"As a large exporter, Spain particularly stands to benefit, though freezing capacity may limit the volumes that can be traded," Ms Wilkins added.

National developments

By the end of last week, a total of 13 wild boar cases had been confirmed close to the original one just 6km form the Polish border in the eastern state of Brandenburg. The Friedrich-Loeffler-Institute, Germany’s National Reference Laboratory for the virus, has warned that the outbreak is still in its early stages. 

Ms Wilkins said Bradenburg was 'not the most pig-dense part of Germany', containing about 2% of the overall national herd in 2016 (150,000 head) and about 4% of the breeding herd (45,000 head), according to Eurostat figures.

AMI reports that slaughter in eastern Germany totals about 7 million head annually, whereas overall German pig slaughter is in excess of 55 million head. Around 1.2 million pigs were slaughtered in Bradenburg last year, with Vion operating a large plant in Perleberg, which is still about 300km from the location of the infected wild boar carcases though.

The only other large plant in Eastern Germany is a Tonnies plant in Weißenfels, which is also nearly 300km away. This plant reportedly slaughters 4.6 million pigs annually.

"Interim protective measures are currently in place in the area surrounding the boar carcases, before the formal regionalisation is confirmed," Ms Wilkins said.

"However, as the EU does take a regional approach to ASF-related trade restrictions, and so far, it seems there are relatively few farms near to the outbreak, the number of farms directly affected by restrictions may be low too.

"Of course, this depends on if, and where, other cases are found. Nonetheless, at present it looks like pig supplies will remain similar, though trade in this pig meat will largely be limited to within the EU."