The decline in pig numbers in China could make trade negotiations with the US more complicated, according to new research.
A sharp decline in China’s pig population due to an epidemic of African swine fever has reduced the amount of animal feed imported from the United States, according to an analysis by HSBC Global Research.
Soybeans are primarily used to feed pigs in China with the majority imported from the United States and Brazil.
The research says a lower demand in animal food could “constrain China’s ability to substantially increase soybean imports from the US” – a key requirement of President Donald Trump in his negotiations to boost American goods exported to China.
Almost 700 million pigs a year are slaughtered in China and pork is by far the most widely eaten meat. The outbreak in the disease has led to a 20% drop in pig numbers in 2019 alone.
The sustained lack of demand to feed a declining pig population has also led to depressed soybean prices hurting American farmers.
This comes as the United States and China engage in a trade war after President Trump imposed tariffs to carry out his campaign promise and reduce the trade deficit between the world’s two largest economies.
According to the United States Trade Representative’s Office, the goods and services trade deficit with China stood at $378.6bn (£297.6bn) in 2018.
While soybean exports to China totalled just $3.1bn (£2.4bn), much of the crop was grown in Republican majority states whose constituents largely back President Trump.
Brent Gloy, an agriculture economist with Agriculture Economic Insights, says there’s severe financial distress in the agricultural sector.
He said: “Farmers I talk to, I’ve been surprised they’re supportive as they are, but I think it’s starting to wane.”