(Bloomberg) -- Foreign pigs may be the answer to China’s pork shortage, but not for their meat. Rather, it’s the sturdier semen of hogs in Northern Europe that could help bolster the fertility of breeding sows.
With pork supplies tumbling due to the spread of African swine fever and prices at record highs, the Chinese government is encouraging farmers to breed quickly. “Fine pig sperm” should be used for artificial insemination, authorities said.
But boars in China tend to produce fewer piglets than their counterparts in the West. Those in Denmark produce an average 27 to 28 offspring per sow a year, compared with about 19 in China, according to Lin Guofa, a senior analyst at Bric Agriculture Group.
That means China will need to import more pig sperm to quickly boost hog herds that have fallen by a third from a year ago. So far this year, China has bought about 23 kilograms of overseas animal semen excluding those of bovine in the first seven months of this year, according to customs data. That’s down from 53 kilograms in 2018.
“Semen imports will surely increase due to the domestic shortage in China’s breeding stock,” said Ma Chuang, deputy secretary general at the Chinese Association of Animal Science and Veterinary Medicine. “Given the disease, imports of semen seem to be safer than imports of a large number of live breeding stock.”
China usually imports pig sperm from the U.K., Ireland and Denmark, Ma said.
Genus Plc, a U.K.-based livestock genetics company, says it’s aiming to boost the number of animals at its Chinese pork breeding-stock unit to about 50,000 by fiscal year 2021, double what it has now.
“There’s significant opportunity in the market going forward, so we’re focused on how rapidly we can serve the market,” said Stephen Wilson, chief finance officer at Genus. “That’s why we’re putting in place extra capacity.”
Still, purchasing semen now may be premature, Bric’s Lin said.
“Right now, imports of more semen are no help at all as there is a shortage of breeding sows in the country,” Lin said. Increasing imports will become necessary later, when Chinese farms are ready to aggressively expand, he said.
(Adds Genus comment from 7th paragraph.)
--With assistance from Megan Durisin.
To contact Bloomberg News staff for this story: Niu Shuping in Beijing at firstname.lastname@example.org
To contact the editors responsible for this story: Anna Kitanaka at email@example.com, Atul Prakash
For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com
©2019 Bloomberg L.P.