Obese pigs in China are being blamed for worsening a sudden slide in the country’s pork prices. In the hope the animals will generate higher returns should prices rebound, farmers have been fattening hogs since late last year to almost double their normal weight, with some reaching the size of a female polar bear. Many of the swine pig trader Cao Tao is buying weigh more than 200kg, compared with their usual size of around 125kg.
“Some farmers are holding onto their larger pigs on hopes of a price rebound,” he said.
However, Chinese wholesale pork prices have dropped more than 40 percent since mid-January amid sluggish demand, increased imports and panic selling by farmers after fresh outbreaks of African swine fever. The country’s biggest pig breeder Muyuan Foods is expecting a continued drop in domestic hog prices, with the slump not bottoming out until next year or even 2023.
Bric Agriculture Group senior analyst Lin Guofa said many farmers had fattened their pigs in anticipation of a recovery in pork prices, but the sell-off of these large animals may be delaying a rebound in prices.
“When these farms sell together, the sell-off causes an explosive price slump,” Mr Lin said. According to him, farms in the southwest and south are still holding a large number of “cow-sized” pigs, which could be sold as the weather warms and push down prices for a while yet. China’s hog herd was devastated by African swine fever in 2018 and, while numbers have recovered since then, a recent resurgence has driven up pork imports.
Though the number of hogs available for slaughter may take another four months to get back to normal, the agriculture ministry said the country’s pig herd may recover to usual levels by July. The impact of the obese hogs on pork prices is also being complicated by new rules that prohibit the transport of live pigs across the boundaries of five areas. The regulations – aimed at combating the spread of African swine fever – are reshaping the market and leading to regional price differences.
A farmer in the northern city of Tianjin said her family wouldn’t be breeding larger pigs after the price slump and had sold all of their animals that weighed more than 150kg. The falling pork prices and high corn prices give poor returns on larger hogs as they eat more.