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ECONOMISTS: CHINA'S AFRICAN SWINE FEVER WON'T IMPACT U.S. PRICES, UNLESS DISEASE GETS OUT OF HAND
POLITICO reports:

The deadly African Swine Fever outbreak rippling through China won't have a major impact on U.S. pork exports to the country - at least in the short term - a handful of economists told MA. That's in part because the disease has only affected a fraction of China's massive pork industry.

China, the world's largest producer and consumer of pork, has culled hundreds of thousands of pigs since August to stop the spread of the disease (which isn't harmful to humans). That's a relatively small number considering China is home to half the world's swine, with an estimated 433 million pigs at the start of this year. (Reminder: That's more pigs than the U.S. has people!)

If China had to start importing pork, it would turn to Canada or the EU first, economists say, rather than pay the 62 percent retaliatory tariffs on U.S. pork imposed as part of the ongoing trade war. But if the highly contagious disease were to reach epidemic proportions, China would effectively be forced to buy from the U.S., even with the high tax on imports.

"If things got really bad , then Canada would run out of pork, and there might be a point where people would pay those kind of duties," said Dermot Hayes, co-director of the Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute at Iowa State University. "But the situation would have to get extreme."

African Swine Fever has yet to be found in the U.S., which has upped its defense systems and restricted imports from affected countries including Poland. And keeping it out could be essential for gaining the upper-hand in trade if the disease's spread gets out of control.

But U.S. producers aren't counting on a future shortage in China. Pork is faring relatively well compared with other commodities and sectors caught in the trade war's crossfire, like dairy, which is expected to lose more than $1 billion in income this year. Although pork producers have felt the sting of retaliatory tariffs from China and Mexico, exports this year remain slightly ahead of 2017's record numbers, as producers have been able to diversify their overseas markets in recent years.


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