COPENHAGEN, Nov 19 (Reuters) - The world’s top pork consumer China is likely to remain an importer of the meat for up to five years as new outbreaks of African swine fever delays attempts to restore pig production, head of Europe’s biggest pork producer said on Thursday.
An epidemic of the incurable African swine fever swept through China’s hog herd in 2018, causing production to plunge and reduced the breeding stock by an estimated 60% by late last year.
“I think rebuilding of the pig production will see some setbacks,” Jais Valeur, chief executive of Danish Crown , said in an interview.
“We’ve seen that they get the sector up and running, only to be hit by African swine fever again because the situation was not under control,” he said.
Danish Crown, which produces around 18 million pigs each year, has over the past year shipped a record 30% of its total production to China, benefiting from high prices in the country.
“My prediction is that there will be a need for imports in China in the next four to five years because of African Swine Fever,” said Valeur.
Danish Crown had seen a spike in exports to China since 2018, but Valeur said shipments to the country have fallen since Beijing in October and November temporarily banned imports from two plants in Denmark after workers had been infected with COVID-19.
The company’s only meat processing plant in China near Shanghai is running at low capacity, because an agreement with Alibaba ended shortly after the plant opened in September as the Chinese company did not take the expected volumes, he said.
Danish Crown said on Wednesday sales rose 8% to 61 billion Danish crowns ($9.7 billion) in the financial year ending Sep. 30.
$1 = 6.2920 Danish crowns Reporting by Jacob Gronholt-Pedersen Editing by Marguerita Choy