The Department of Agriculture intends to grant an experimental license for an African swine fever vaccine. The intent was published in the Federal Register this week that USDA’s Agricultural Research Service intends to grant the license to a company in Bulgaria that manufactures and markets human and animal health products. Currently, there is no commercially available vaccine to protect swine from the deadline virus. Despite the work by the company in Bulgaria and others, National Pork Producers Council Veterinarian Liz Wagstrom told Reuters in February that researchers at USDA believe a vaccine is “a decade away.”
Researchers in the European Union believe development of a vaccine may take 20 years. The threat of the disease spreading to the U.S. prompted the cancellation of the World Pork Expo this summer. Since its discovery in China in August 2018, Rabobank estimates that African swine fever has affected 150 million to 200 million pigs, which is nearly 30 percent larger than annual U.S. pork production and equivalent to Europe’s annual pork supply, according to the National Pork Board.
Meanwhile, many farms in China infected with African swine fever are not restocking with pigs. Bloomberg News reports that 80 percent of farms infected with the deadly virus are not restocking, leaving a significant gap in production. China is the world’s largest pork producer, but agriculture officials in China say production has dropped 21 percent since African swine fever was first reported last August. And, a new outbreak on an island province was reported over the weekend.
The declining hog production in China will result in lower demand for soybeans and feed products, but an increase in the need for pork products. Officials in China say, “if confidence among breeders fails to recover, it will hurt consumers.” They predict pork supplies could start to tighten and prices may hit record levels in the second half of the year, before tightening further in 2020. Pork accounts for more than 60 percent of meat consumption in China.